kompong roka village, Pursat province – Sitting this week under a blue tarpaulin donated by the Cambodian Red Cross, Than Nhien was temporarily homeless and resigned that his rice crop had all but been wiped out.
The 40-year-old farmer said his house and 1-hectare field had been inundated by the late monsoon rains just as the plants were sprouting.
“I feel sad that I will have little harvest this year,” he said.
Torrential rains exacted a heavy toll on Cambodia last week, especially in Pursat, where waters flowing down from the Cardamon mountains swept through and flooded nine districts.
Provincial officials this week estimated that 11,102 families were left homeless, 28,069 hectares of rice fields were flooded and roads had incurred $1 million worth of damage. While water levels haven’t been as high as in the 1996 killer flash floods, officials said this year’s flood waters have been slower to recede and have caused even more damage to crops and roads.
“This year’s flooding is very bad because it came while the rice plants were blooming,” said Kompong Roka Village Chief Khov Hoeun, pointing to a flooded rice field behind his house. He estimated at least half of his 1.5 hectare-field had been damaged.
No casualties were reported. But officials said boats had been called in to evacuate people to higher ground and to monasteries. Vann Heang, deputy director of the Cambodian Red Cross in Pursat, said Kravine district remained only accessible by boat, and that more boats were needed to transport food supplies.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, homeless people still could be seen in tents along Route 5 and rural roads, while others were gradually moving back into their homes.
At least 13 sections of National Route 5 were damaged. In two washed-out sections, villagers had erected makeshift wooden bridges and were charging taxis 10,000 riel (about $2.50) to cross.
Sroeu Kim, provincial deputy director for public works and transport, said heavy trucks had been banned along the national road until further notice. About 30 trucks could be seen stranded alongside the road.
Pursat Second Deputy Governor Khoy Sokha estimated that $1 million would be needed to renovate the damaged roads.
“The roads, especially the rural ones, are badly damaged,” he said. The districts most hard-hit were Kravine, Sampou Meas and Kandieng.
Amid the hardship, there were signs of recovery and levity.
Rail service between Pursat and Battambang resumed Tuesday, after flooding had submerged the tracks and stopped travel for three days, a rail official said. The tracks at one point were under about half a meter of water, said Rith Boeun, deputy director of railway transportation.
And in Kompong Roka, 20 km north of Pursat town, children played and villagers tried to catch fish in a “river.”
Just two weeks ago, it had been a red dirt road.