Death Toll From Nationwide Flooding More Than Doubles to 83

The National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) on Monday significantly raised the number of people who have died from nationwide flooding from 39 to 83 as rainstorms overfilled dams and flash floods inundated roads and villages in provinces around the Tonle Sap.

Storms and flash floods have swept across Siem Reap, Battam­bang, Pailin, Pursat and Banteay Meanchey provinces increasing to 16 the total number of provinces hit since flooding began a month ago, according to Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the NCDM.

“At least 83 people, including 34 children aged between 1 and 2 years, have died due to flooding in the past three weeks, bringing the total killed in floods to 96 so far this year,” he said.

“Nationwide, more than 10,000 families have been evacuated and 800,000 families affected,” Mr. Vy said, adding that 670 schools, 370 pagodas and 47 health centers had been flooded.

In Battambang province, where flooding has affected almost every district, six people have been killed since Saturday as heavy rains combined with flooding in Thailand caused the Sangke River to surge past the 13.82-meter emergency level to 14.02 meters, said deputy provincial governor Uy Vy.

“As of Monday, all districts in Battambang Province have been affected by floodwater except Thma Koul, while at least 1,000 families were evacuated to higher ground and more than 50,000 hectares of rice fields and 15,000 hectares of crops flooded,” he said.

The latest victims in the province came Monday evening, as two children—an 8-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy—drowned in Mong Russei district’s Kakoh commune after they went swimming in the floodwaters around their home, said Hong That, an official from Battambang’s department of Eco­nomic and Social Affairs.

“On Saturday, a 50-year-old farmer drowned in Ta Sen commune in Kamrieng district after falling into a canal, while another 50-year-old man in Sangke district’s Anlong Vil commune died after being swept away by floodwater,” he said, adding that a 2-year-old girl in Mong Russei district’s Talos commune and a 10-year-old girl in Thma Koul district’s Kork Khmom commune had also died on Sunday.

The streets and roads in and around Battambang City were inundated Monday causing traffic chaos and closing many businesses.

“It is the worst flooding in the five years I have lived here,” said 34-year-old Shathel Fahs, a technical field officer for the NGO Mine Action Group.

“We thought yesterday would be the worst but today the flooding has increased again, all of the main streets in the town, the economic parts of the city, are totally flooded,” he said.

In Banteay Meanchey province—where police and soldiers have been working for the past week to prevent the 2-km-long Khmer Rouge-era Trapaing Thma dam in Phnom Srok district’s Poy Char commune from breaking—efforts are ongoing to prevent a catastrophe from occurring, said Ouk Keorat­tanak, a provincial administrator.

“More than 600 police and soldiers have been trying everyday to use sandbags and earth to hold the dam back,” he said.

When the dam gates are opened, hundreds of families in eight villages will need to be evacuated to escape the water that is released —but if the dam breaks, it could be a disaster for people in the area, Mr. Keorattanak said.

“We will not be able to avoid flooding the area when we open the Trapaing Thma dam, but it is something we will need to do,” he said.

In Siem Reap on Monday, where hundreds of families are affected by flooding, the Apsara Authority—which manages the Angkor Wat temple complex and surrounding dams and reservoirs—were working to repair a section of road adjoining a moat near Angkor Thom temple that gave way due to water pressure.

“More than 200 police and Royal Cambodian Armed forces soldiers are working to restore the 20-meter section of road and hope to have done so by the end of day,” said Im Sokrithy, chief of the information department at the Apsara Authority.

Several local officials continued to believe Monday that flooding had been caused by the decision not to open the dam gates until a temple in the Western Baray reservoir had been reinforced, but the Apsara Authority insisted they were mistaken.

“We have let the water from the dam flow into the Western Baray, which filled beyond a 56- million-cubed-meter limit to 60 million, so we have let water flow out into the ancient canal system to go downstream into the [Tonle Sap],” he said.

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