kampot town – Rains started subsiding here Thursday afternoon, but not before flash floods had apparently claimed four lives, left hundreds of families homeless, and damaged thousands of hectares of rice fields, officials said.
One child’s body was recovered, and three other children were missing and presumed dead, Kampot First Deputy Governor Chhin Chuon said.
At least 200 meters of railroad tracks were washed out, and 12,300 hectares of rice paddies were flooded, Kampot District Chief Khuy Sien said.
Five hundred former Khmer Rouge families were forced to take refuge in a nearby pagoda, Agence France-Presse quoted a Red Cross official as saying.
Meanwhile, National Road 4 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville reopened Thursday morning, officials said. The two-day closure thwarted business deliveries, tour bus traffic and caused congestion at the port of Sihanoukville.
Waters near the center of Kampot town were still knee-high Thursday afternoon but showed signs of receding. Children played in the water, using wash basins as boats.
The Kampot Red Cross building and the provincial government building were deserted because of power outages and flooding. Pigs, dogs and cows waded around the grounds of the provincial government building, but no humans were in sight.
“It is the worst flooding I have known since the 1950s,” said Chhin Chuon in a meeting with several provincial officials at an open-air coffee shop near the center of Kampot town.
Farmer and fisherman Math Sary, 25, said that his wife and two children started to cry in panic as water rushed though their house outside Kampot town Tuesday night. He said he stayed up until dawn to move his family and cattle to the higher ground. At one point, the water was up to the cattle’s necks, he said.
“I was very shocked….My house was shaking.”
After evacuating his family, Math Sary began using his fishing boat as a ferry service for those stranded on National Road 3 about 6 km outside Kampot town.
On Thursday, the water had receded enough for trucks to travel along the road.
But at least six boats were waiting to ferry other stranded passengers for 3,000 riel each along the 6 km flooded stretch into Kampt town.
As Math Sary guided a boat through the waters, he pointed to the rooftop of his house and bemoaned his family’s loss from the flooding. He said his two-hectare rice field also was flooded.
Chhin Chuon said officials would meet today to collect more damage assessments from the area. Nearby Kompong Bay district also was believed to be hard hit from the flood, but damage reports weren’t available Thursday afternoon.
Meng Suon, second deputy governor of Kampot, warned that new dangers also could be on the horizon—such as disease and food shortages.
Dr Nguon Sokhon of the Red Cross National Committee for Disaster Management, said the Kampot floods prove what officials indicated at a recent conference in Phnom Penh:
“The government does not have any plan for dealing with a flood in that region yet.”
(Additional reporting by Im Sophea and Kay Kimsong)