An emergency cabinet meeting has been called for today to discuss disaster response and prevention in the face of severe flooding that has hit many parts of the country.
More than 132,000 hectares of rice paddy field have been inundated with water since flooding began earlier this month, with nearly 28,000 hectares completely destroyed, the Agriculture Ministry announced Saturday in a circular sent to local agriculture officials.
Continued flooding in 10 provinces around the Tonle Sap lake and along the Mekong River has left 62 dead, about 20,000 homes flooded and 5,000 families displaced, the National Committee for Disaster Management announced on Friday. Governors of three other provinces also reported flooded homes, evacuations and damaged crops.
Since Friday, floodwaters have remained at the same level or begun to slowly subside in some areas, said Keo Vy, deputy director of the National Disaster Management Committee’s information department. “It is too early to say what the flooding situation is across provinces because we need a few days to monitor it,” Mr Vy said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen will preside over an urgent meeting today with his cabinet, ministry representatives and other relevant authorities, including emergency units, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said.
“One of the discussion topics is the flash floods” that have occurred in provinces along the Tonle Sap, Mr Siphan said, noting that staff from each province would provide updates via videoconference.
Mr Hun Sen traveled to Kompong Thom, one of the worst hit provinces, yesterday morning, provincial Governor Chhun Chhorn said. “He came to see the situation that was badly hit by flooding,” he said.
Flooding has affected 7,000 families in Kompong Thom and forced 6,000 people to flee their homes, Mr Chhorn said. “We are concerned about further flooding because the water level remains stable,” he said.
Mao Hak, director of the hydrology and river works department at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said water levels in the Mekong River were forecast to decline in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.
Yet as water levels subside upstream, they are due to rise in Prey Veng province and in the Bassac River in Kandal province, Mr Hak said. “In Phnom Penh, there will be an increase in the water level in the next two days,” he said, noting that the level would hover above the 10.5-meter warning level, but below the 12-meter level flood threshold.
Kandal Governor Chhun Sirun said that nearly 40,000 homes, 126 schools and 227 kilometers of road had already been flooded. But “we believe the situation will improve because the water level in Stung Treng is subsiding,” Mr Sirun said.
Touch Marim, governor of Kompong Chhnang province, said that only 659 families had been affected by flooding there, compared to nearly 3,000 people forced to evacuate to higher ground in Pursat province. Pursat provincial governor Khoy Sokha feared that more than 8,000 hectares of paddy field would be damaged because water was subsiding very slowly.
In Siem Reap province, deputy governor Kim Chhai Hieng said that emergency food aid was distributed yesterday to more than 900 of the 4,000 families affected by the floods. “The water level has subsided about two centimeters, but the area surrounding the city is still flooded,” he said.
Khim Phearum, disaster management coordinator at Save the Children, said that the government and NGOs were trying to meet shortages faced by almost 6,000 families forced to evacuate in Kompong Cham province.
They needed food, drinking water and sanitation, Mr Phearum said, noting that today 20 kg of rice would be distributed to about 5,000 families. “Children are facing health problems like fever, pneumonia and diarrhea.”
Sok Khin, field operations manager at Oxfam GB, raised concerns that inundated crops would be destroyed and residents in flood zones put at risk of disease. Diarrhea has already reportedly become a problem in heavily flooded areas in Kompong Thom province, Mr Khin said. “That’s why Oxfam is very concerned about the water and sanitation there.”