Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called on authorities and people living along the Mekong River and its tributaries to prepare for evacuation in the event that flooding in northern Cambodia worsens.
Heavy rainfall resulting from a cyclone hitting northern Vietnam has pushed up water levels in recent days in northeastern Cambodia, an increase that has been exacerbated by Laos opening the floodgates of a dam along the Sekong River which flows through Stung Treng province.
“The people who live along the riverbank or close to it must be ready to move,” the premier said in a nationally broadcast speech from Phnom Penh.
“I announce: Observe the areas where the water flows strongly and [ensure] that there are preparations for this incident,” he said.
He added that in Phnom Penh the Mekong River’s water level stands at about 8 meters, which is still below the 10-meter mark that indicates an emergency situation. However, water levels will gradually increase because of the increased flow of water from Laos, the premier said.
The premier also ordered local officials and the military in northeastern areas to be on alert and to react to flooding rapidly.
Flooding has already taken the life of one child in Kompong Thom province, according to the chief of Prasat Sambor district’s Chhouk commune. Fourteen-month-old Kim Chhor drowned in her grandmother’s flooded house in Anlung Sleng village, commune chief Chhoun Chhoeng said.
Mr Chhoeng said that local villages have been flooded for two weeks from water flowing from the Stung Sen river and that officials are advising residents to move to higher ground in response to the premier’s latest announcement.
Though a number of regions are reporting flood levels that are typical for this time of the rainy season, the Sekong, Sre Sambor, Thma Keo communes in Stung Treng’s Siem Pang district are “completely flooded, with damaged rice fields,” Sor Sophal, Siem Pang district’s deputy governor, said Wednesday evening. He added that district officials have divided into three groups to rescue residents stranded in those areas.
Mr Sophal said that 70 percent of his district is flooded and that water levels in the Sekong River reached 12.9 meters on Wednesday, a 20 centimeter increase from the day before and well above the 11.5 meter emergency mark. There have been no reported deaths so far, he added.
Khieu Vongdoeun, Stung Treng town deputy police chief, said that the water level along the Mekong in the provincial capital had increased slightly from 9.88 meters Tuesday to 9.94 meters Wednesday, and that an emergency situation would be declared if it reaches 10.5 meters in depth.
“In preparation for this stage, we are preparing boats to rescue villagers, and officials are working in shifts around the clock in order to monitor the situation,” Mr Vongdoeun said.
Ly Thuch, second vice chairman of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said Wednesday that water levels are increasing little by little in provinces along the Mekong River in north or the country.
“We are preparing both budget and other means in order to help people if the flooding gets serious because we do not want people to die,” he said.
(Reporting by Chhorn Chansy, Eang Mengleng, Rann Reuy and Kristin Okinaka)