Just across the Monivong Bridge in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district is a
Severely flooded commune where 2,096 families are struggling to seek refuge from encroaching waters that have been rising for 15 days.
Chbar Ampov II commune lies at the end of a narrow road on the banks of the Bassac River. Arriving there yesterday afternoon, the dry, dusty path came to an abrupt halt after a couple of hundred meters, giving way to lapping water which deepened on all sides.
The residents have improvised as best they can, using large tire tubes and wooden pallets bound together as rafts to navigate waterways between their flooded homes.
Cars and motorcycles sit idle in the water, which in many parts was chest-deep, and transport was only possible using those homemade rafts.
A two-walled shed with a corrugated roof and a tile and concrete floor belonging to the local school is now home to about 20 families who sit amongst plastic bags containing damp belongings.
Villager Yoeun Vet, 33, said that normally he would return to his home province of Kompong Cham to celebrate Pchum Ben, but heavy flooding across the country had prevented his family from traveling this year.
“Here, it is hard to go to the Pagoda for Pchum Ben as we must wear the correct clothes and prepare food for the monks, and we cannot because our homes are damaged from the flood,” he said.
Li Kim Tik, a 61-year-old street food seller, standing with her cart in ankle-deep water, said she had lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and had never seen such bad flooding.
“It is very difficult to make food, in my house the water is almost up to my head, it is costing us money. It is much worse than other years,” said Ms Kim Tik.
Phan Loek, a 45-year-old mother of four, said they had asked if they could stay at Chbar Ampov pagoda, but were told that it was not possible as there was not enough room for everyone.
“We are not allowed to stay there but we worry now, there is not enough food and we don’t receive anything from anyone,” said Ms Loek.
The chief monk at the pagoda could not be reached yesterday.
Chbar Ampov II commune chief Yin Savut said that it was not necessary for people to seek shelter in the pagoda as there were other places to stay in the commune, though he conceded that water was continuing to rise.
“The water is up to two meters deep in some places and the flood is higher than last year,” said Mr Savut, adding that 101 families had moved to temporary shelter.
Mr Savut said that commune authorities had not provided any food yet, as they were still “collecting statistics and preparing reports for higher authorities.”
Commune police chief Lo Phearum said that they had rescue services on standby in case of an emergency in the commune.
Som Mom, a social worker with the non-governmental Mercy Team International, said they had provided 500 water filters to commune residents since the flooding began.
But for street vender Ms Kim Tik, more needs to be done and she wants the government to do more to help villagers cope with the aftermath of the flooding.
“They are collecting people’s names but they don’t help us. I have three children and I am a widow,” she said. (Sok Sidon and Alice Burke)