Thousands of onlookers watched with bated breath as two RCAF helicopters, trailing ropes and ladders, hovered over the Tonle Bassac River in Kandal province Wednesday and tossed lifesavers down to people bobbing helplessly in the water below them.
Four speedboats quickly pulled up. Divers jumped overboard. On the river banks, medics and ambulances stood waited to speed the rescued “flood victims” to the hospital.
Cambodia’s first-ever emergency disaster response drill went off without a hitch. Nhim Vanda, vice president of the First National Committee for Disaster Management, said the show of emergency response skills was a new idea borrowed from other Asean nations.
“This drill is very important for both Cambodia and other Asean nations to share experiences and knowledge in improving our disaster management,” he said.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said that flooding along the Mekong River and flash floods in mountainous regions have caused significant damage since 2000.
“Cambodia lost considerably” to such disasters, he said.
Ros Phal, 25, who watched the helicopters and speedboats take part in the drill from the riverbank, said the emergency workers put on a good show and he was glad they could deploy with speed.
Unable to swim, Ros Phal said if he were caught in a flood his chances of survival would be slim unless rescuers moved quickly.
“I would drown if rescue workers came late,” he said.