Several streets east of Norodom Boulevard were turned into virtual rivers, and traffic ground to a halt Friday evening after Phnom Penh was hit by its first torrential rains of the year.
Portions of Street 19 as well as Kampuchea Krom Boulevard and the area around Wat Phnom were especially hard hit by flooding, officials said.
Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoer said the floodwater, which in some places was at least knee-high, caused citywide traffic congestion.
Cars trying to circumvent floods on Kampuchea Krom took to Russian Boulevard in large numbers and caused a traffic jam, he said.
“Passengers were trying to find better roads for driving to avoid the floods…. It happens each year,” he said.
According to Ros Sambo, 27, whose family owns a restaurant on Street 19 just west of the National Museum, large cars attempting to navigate the street sent waves of rainwater several meters into her shop.
Despite the flooding, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun touted the city’s drainage system, saying it has been greatly improved in recent years with much help from the Japanese government.
“City Hall considers the drainage system as the first priority for developing Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that floods in previous years have taken one or two days to dissipate.
But renowned architect Vann Molyvann, who designed some of Cambodia’s landmark buildings during the 1960s, said the lack of an up-to-date drainage system has contributed to the flooding.
Roads and houses have been built atop a drainage system put in place in the 1960s and, as a result, excess rainwater can no longer find the drains, he said. Moreover, he said, the filling-in of lakes around the capital has also contributed to the flooding since the lakes used to act as a natural drainage system.
“The filling of lakes is not the problem,” Mann Chhoeun said, adding that the city’s location in a basin makes it particularly susceptible to flooding.
(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann)