Flooding spread over the weekend as storms hit the country meaning Siem Reap, Battambang and Pailin have all been added to the list of provinces affected by high waters.
In Siem Reap province, Nuon Krisna, director of the provincial department of water resources and meteorology, said that water in the Siem Reap river had surpassed the emergency level by 8 centimeters to reach 13.08 meters on Sunday.
Officials in Siem Reap also presented conflicting reports on whether or not the Takao dam, near the Angkor Wat temple complex, had partially collapsed.
“On Saturday night at 9:30 p.m., heavy rains increased the flow of water coming down Kulen Mountain causing Takao dam to fill up and then break, flooding surrounding houses and roads and affecting thousands of families,” Mr. Krisna said.
He said that provincial authorities had ordered the Apsara Authority, which manages the dams and reservoirs around Angkor Wat, to open the dam gates to allow the water to flow into the Western Baray reservoir, in the middle of which lies the 11th century Western Mebon temple, which is now at risk of flooding.
Yim Phally, deputy chief of Kokchak commune in Siem Reap City, said that more than 300 families there needed to be evacuated due to the dam partially breaking, while 2,000 homes were flooded.
“We told the authorities to open the gate of Takao dam but they opened only a little, saying they needed to protect Mebon temple first and send the water into the city,” he said.
“If Apsara Authority opened the gate of the dam before Saturday, the dam would not have broken.”
But deputy Director-General of Apsara Authority Heng Pao said that reports that the dam had broken were incorrect and were based on a misunderstanding of the origin of the floodwater.
“If the dam had actually broken many people would have died very quickly. The water is actually coming from the moat at Angkor Thom west of Angkor Wat, where the high water level created pressure that broke the bank of a road,” he said, adding that the Western Baray reservoir was full so no more water could be diverted there.
Spokeswoman for the Cambodian Red Cross, Men Neary Sopheak, said that the organization was cooperating with local authorities in newly flooded areas in Siem Reap as well as in Pailin and Battambang to help evacuate families and provide assistance.
“Today in Siem Reap the director there has organized help with 200 families who [are] in the west of the Angkor Wat complex and brought chloramine tablets, mineral water, bread, rice and noodles,” she said, adding that from September 1 through Thursday, the Red Cross had assisted 8,902 families across 10 provinces.
The flooding has killed at least 39 people over the past three weeks and seen thousands evacuated from their homes.