Prey Veng Drought, Flood Damage Surveyed

A delegation of government officials and international and national aid workers has wrapped up a visit to Prey Veng province, pleased with the overall response to this year’s floods but still struck by the damage of the country’s worst drought since 1995.

“The problem looks worse be­cause in some places, the right side of the road is flooded, while on the left hand side they are still affected by drought,” National Committee for Disaster Manage­ment First Vice President Nhim Vanda said Wednesday.

Although the last several years of aid and preparation have given the country a leg up in fighting flood damage, the speed and suddenness of this year’s floods surprised some officials.

Nonetheless, authorities were relieved by the rapid response and quick communication up and down the Mekong River.

“This year, we were better prepared than in past years because we have better networks from the high level down to the low level,” Nhim Vanda said.

International observers who have helped officials prepare a disaster response plan agreed with that assessment.

“Preparedness has certainly paid off,” International Federation of the Red Cross Head of Del­e­gation Anthony Spalton said.

Authorities at the Red Cross federation are still putting together an appeal for international aid to help flood victims. The worst-hit province appears to be Prey Veng, Nhim Vanda said. More than 10,000 families have been evacuated. Water has overrun four stretches of National Route 1 in Ba Phnom district, he said.

Although water levels continue to recede in most of the country, levels in Prey Veng and Kandal pro­vinces remain steady, Nhim Vanda said. So far, flooding in the five provinces bordering the Mekong River has affected an estimated 94,590 families. Four­teen persons have died, Nhim Vanda said. Last year’s floods caused about $17 million in damage, Spalton said. This year’s damage estimate is not yet available.

The drought, however, is likely to have worse effects. Before the flooding, less than 37 percent of the na­tion’s rice fields had been sown, authorities said.

While officials estimate the damage and figure how much help they’ll need, the UN World Food Program said Wednesday it was standing by.

“At the moment, the UN World Food Program has not provided food because we know that the government has provided more than 1,900 metric tons of food, not all yet distributed,” Country Director Rebecca Hansen said. “We are waiting to have a better idea of what the needs are as to food.”


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