Floods Force Evacuations in Northwest

Hundreds of families in Banteay Meanchey province were evacuated from their homes yesterday due to severe flooding, with authorities warning that more than 1,000 additional families may have to be rescued if torrential rains continue as expected over the course of this week.

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Children wade through rising floodwaters yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet City, where 500 families have been evacuated. (Khiev Borey)

The rains that have hit Thailand’s Sa Keo province and caused the flooding along the Cambodian border are predicted to continue over the next four to five days, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said in a statement yesterday, warning provincial authorities to move people threatened by floodwaters to higher ground.

“Today we evacuated 626 families, 126 families in O’Chrou district and 500 families in Poipet City,” Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Oung Oeun said.

“We’ve sent them to eight different locations. Since this morning the floodwaters have gone up 25 centimeters. We will evacuate more if the water increases.”

More than 1,000 police and military police have been assembled to aid with evacuations, Mr. Oeun said.

The Cambodian Red Cross has already provided 700 tents for the 500 evacuated families, according to Mr. Oeun, who added that he had requested more emergency supplies in case of further evacuations.

“We have warned people living near the border to closely monitor flood levels, which are continuing to rise as the rain is still continuing,” Mr. Oeun said.

Around 1,120 additional families may need to be evacuated over the coming days, according to Keo Vy, deputy director of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

In Poipet City, the worst hit area so far, around 500 families were evacuated from their homes, while floodwaters up to two meters deep had inundated the homes of another 1,260 people, according to Poipet governor Ngor Mengchroun.

And in O’Chrou district, where 126 families have been evacuated from their homes, another 338 families are facing evacuation, said Keo Sen, O’Chrou district governor. About 1,600 meters of road had also been flooded, some of it completely destroyed, he added.

While parts of Siem Reap province have also experienced flooding over the past few days, the situation there is less serious, with floodwaters already receding, according to provincial governor Sou Phirin.

While no one in Siem Reap’s worst hit districts of Puok, Angkor Chum, Varin and Banteay Srei has been evacuated, a 12-year-old girl in Puok district drowned in floodwaters on Saturday, according to Pich Sokhaley, district governor.

More than 100 meters of road in the district had also been destroyed, he added.
Ngan Chantha, head of the National Dengue Control Center, warned yesterday that the floods in both Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces could mean a renewed outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease.

“We are afraid of an outbreak of dengue again. We had just finished our larviciding. Now it’s washed away,” Dr. Chantha said on the sidelines of a Ministry of Health Conference in Phnom Penh yesterday.

“When the flood goes down it’s a problem, there are containers filled with water,” he said, explaining that stagnant water is key mosquito breeding ground. Cholera and diarrhea outbreaks are also a concern if floods intensify, he said.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh also referred to the flooding at a meeting of the European Chamber of Commerce yesterday, saying he was worried it could affect economic growth.

“We think that this year we could continue to keep around seven percent [GDP growth],” Mr. Prasidh said, addressing a meeting of the European Chamber of Commerce in Phnom Penh.

“But I’m still crossing my fingers that the floods that is coming now is not too serious as forecast. If the flood is not too serious, we will be able to continue to have the good agricultural output, export a lot of garments,” he added.

Last year saw the worst floods the nation has seen in over a decade, with nearly 500,000 families affected, 250 people killed, and about a fifth of the country’s rice paddy destroyed.

Humanitarian aid groups were highly critical of the government’s response to the disaster last year, citing a lack of coordination in relief efforts as the main reason aid did not reach many affected communities in remote areas.

(Additional reporting by Kate Bartlett and Simon Lewis)

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