Three percent of the country’s rice crops have been destroyed by flooding in provinces along the Mekong River and around the Tonle Sap lake, and another seven percent is at risk of being lost, the minister of agriculture said yesterday.
New government estimates also show that 150,000 families in 10 provinces were living in flooded homes and rising water had displaced 17,000 families.
Both evacuated families and many of those who are staying in flooded homes are in need of support, officials said, while an emergency aid expert warned that the loss of rice crops could ultimately push many rural villagers into a cycle of poverty and debt.
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said 252,000 hectares of paddy fields across 14 provinces were inundated with floodwater, 72,000 hectares of which had already been destroyed.
“Flooding has affected…10 percent of the country’s total rice crop, three percent…was destroyed as of September 28, but more rice will be damaged,” Mr Sarun said.
Rice fields are damaged if they are flooded for more than 10 days, according to aid experts. Some provinces around the Tonle Sap have now been flooded for weeks.
However, Mr Sarun said the overall impact of flooding on national rice production, rice prices and export volumes would be limited.
“I think it’s not strongly affected,” he said, adding that the total area planted with rice this year was 2.4 million hectares.
“Prey Veng is the worst affected province by the flooding. More than 71,000 hectares [of paddy] is flooded, and 25,000 hectares is destroyed there. Kompong Thom is also bad,” Mr Sarun said.
The National Committee for Disaster Management yesterday released its first update on the overall impact of the disaster since Monday, but details were still scarce.
Keo Vy, deputy director of the disaster committee’s information department, said 15 provinces in total had suffered from flooding, while preliminary reports showed that “150,000 families in 10 provinces are affected by flooding and 17,000 families were evacuated to safe higher grounds.”
“The evacuated families need emergency aid,” he said.
Previously, the committee had reported that about 90,000 families were affected and 13,000 households displaced.
Cambodian Red Cross Deputy Secretary-General Men Neary Sopheak said that evacuated families—many of whom are stranded in large groups on hills or high-lying pagodas and schools—need emergency aid such as food, shelter, drinking water and sanitation, while those stuck in flooded homes mostly require food supplies.
“Food is the biggest need. Water, sanitation and [disinfectant] chloramines is an additional need,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Cambodian Red Cross reported that the number of evacuated and flooded households in need of help totaled 37,300 families in five provinces alone. Kratie authorities have said another 1,400 families were evacuated there.
Ms Neary Sopheak said that as the Mekong floodwaters recede in the northeast and move south of Phnom Penh, reports were coming in that flooding in Prey Veng and Kandal provinces was worsening, while Takeo and Svay Rieng provinces were newly hit.
Prey Veng province deputy governor Keo Sen said floods there were hitting a peak and covered nearly the entire province, adding that there was “big damage” to the province’s rice crops.
“Right now, it’s very serious—the water hasn’t subsided yet…. It has flooded about 90 percent of the province, except for Mesang district,” he said, adding that 39 people had been killed, 1,817 families evacuated and 218 houses destroyed.
The government has so far set aside $55 million and 1,700 metric tons of rice for provincial authorities to provide immediate help to affected families. Each household that lost a family member will receive $500.