Unexpectedly heavy rains early Wednesday flooded a number of city streets, creating a two-hour traffic jam on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard from the Chinese Embassy to Monivong Boulevard.
Nhem Saran, the city’s director of public works, said the water got so deep because the city had no diesel fuel on hand to run its water pumps.
“It is careless work,” he said. “We have no diesel and gasoline stored for emergencies.” Stocks kept on hand for pumping during the rainy season were exhausted when the storm hit, he said.
The city replenished its supply with an additional 6,000 liters Wednesday morning, he said.
But that was too late to be of much help to the thousands of workers who could not get to their jobs. Starting at about 6 am, motorbikes, trucks and cars got stuck throughout the city, as the water spilled into even side streets which usually escape flooding.
In some areas, the water was as much as 1 meter deep, said Nhem Saran. Sewage overflowed in a number of areas along Mao Tse Tung, trapping people inside buildings, officials said.
If the city had the fuel, workers could have started the pumps at about 1 am and the water could have been better controlled, Nhem Saran said.
Ung Sophal, a motorbike driver, called it the worst traffic jam he had ever seen. Usually, he said, he can detour off the main roads through the side streets to escape the water and traffic.
“But this time, I could not move to the small roads,” he said. “I looked at the small roads from the main roads, and I saw only water.”