At least 12 are dead and dozens injured after Typhoon Ketsana slammed into northern parts of Cambodia yesterday morning, leaving in its wake downed trees, flooded villages and hundreds of destroyed homes.
Eight people were killed instantly in Kompong Thom province Tuesday night when the storm razed their homes, according to Sandan District Governor Sim Vanna. A ninth person died later of injuries sustained by the collapse.
“The storm was very strong and quick. The villagers could not prepare to leave their houses on time,” Mr Vanna said.
More than 50 soldiers and policemen have been dispatched by provincial authorities to Sandan district to help move villagers from areas that flooded rapidly. Already, noted Mr Vanna, floodwater has reached 1.5 meters in some places.
Moving villagers however, has its own associated set of problems.
“The villagers who moved to the safe places are short on food,” said Kompong Thom Provincial Governor Chhum Chhorn. He added that the deluge, a renewal of bad flooding which hit the province just weeks earlier, may have destroyed more than 4,000 hectares of rice paddy, causing untold long-term damage.
In addition to the nine killed in Kompong Thom, a caved-in house killed one more in Siem Reap province, Provincial Governor Sou Phirin said. In Ratanakkiri, the body of one of two villagers who went missing Tuesday was discovered yesterday morning, according to community representative Klan Thy. And Kung Srun, governor of Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district, noted that one died in Kaleng commune after being struck by a falling tree.
“They need shelters, tents, safe drinking water, food items,” said Ly Touch second vice-president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, who added that as of yesterday evening more than 100 houses had been reported destroyed and 400 badly damaged by heavy winds in Kompong Thom alone. Yesterday evening, Mr Touch met with a range of relief NGOs and the Ministry of Health to coordinate countrywide relief efforts. “We expect heavy rain and water levels to increase over the next few days,” he said, noting that there would likely be damage to crops in many areas hit by the storm.
Francis Berez, country director of Oxfam Great Britain, which is assisting the relief effort, suggested a “very rough estimate” of the number of families that would likely need aid was around nine or ten thousand. “[As of Wednesday afternoon] there are 2,700 families in Kompong Thom alone needing assistance,” he said.
Typhoon Ketsana, which has wreaked havoc across Southeast Asia over the last week–killing dozens in Vietnam and hundreds in the Philippines–will today be downgraded to a low-pressure system, said Seth Vannareth, director of meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources, who confirmed “the worst is over.”
Nevertheless, the effects of Ketsana’s flash flooding will linger for some time. Villagers in Ratanakkiri were stunned by how quickly the water rose.
“Rain alone cannot cause the water to rise this quickly, we thought,” said Klan Thy, from Andong Meas district, which was among the evacuated areas. He added that the flooding was so strong and sudden some suspected Vietnam had opened floodgates on its upriver dam. “The flood in 1996 or 2000, it could not compare with this.”