Regional Flooding Affecting Cambodia

Although flooding has subsided across the country, water rose again in Banteay Meanchey province yesterday, as two more drownings brought the death toll from a week of heavy rain to at least seven.

But just as the severe weather tapered off, the Cambodian Red Cross said yesterday that it was on alert in case a super-typhoon that lashed the Philippines yesterday made landfall in Cambodia later this week.

Em Phoansophal, deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province, said flooding due to heavy rains in Thailand’s northeast had spread across the border, forcing Cambodian officials to turn back Thai trucks looking to deliver goods on a flooded National Road 5 near the border crossing in Poipet City.

According to a report from Thai state-run news organization MCOT, a Thai official said his country was losing about $1.7 million a day because trucks were being turned away at the border.

Two Kandal province men drowned in floodwaters in separate incidents yesterday and Sunday, marking the sixth and seventh deaths attributed to flooding this week.

Oeun Sambo, 23, was playing in a drainage canal in Ang Snoul district’s Poeuk commune when he drowned on Sunday afternoon, according to commune police chief Yorn Chan. And yesterday evening, the body of an unidentified 20-year-old man was found drowned in floodwaters in Kandal Stung district’s Spean Thma commune, district police chief Sin Butbondith said.

“We found a 20-year-old man’s body, and now our police are walking in floods to check the body,” he said.

To Cambodia’s east, heavy rains pounded parts of central Vietnam and super Typhoon Megi caused power outages, stopped flights and tore roofs off homes in the northern Philippines, Reuters reported. The typhoon is expected to move to China and possibly to Vietnam later this week.

Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management at the Cambodian Red Cross, said the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had asked him yesterday morning to ready the organization’s branches across Cambodia in case the storm made landfall here.

Mr Sam Ath emphasized that it was up the government to declare an emergency, but he said the Cambodian Red Cross would prepare for Typhoon Megi to be as strong as Typhoon Ketsana, which ravaged parts of northeast Cambodia and killed dozens around this time last year.

“We cannot predict,” he said of Typhoon Megi’s possible impact on Cambodia. “But if we are lucky, it will stop.”

He added that the provincial Red Cross branches now had to inventory supplies, equipment, food and other donations to ensure they can provide a proper response.

Despite brief rains in parts of Cambodia yesterday, officials across the country said flooding appeared to be dissipating.

Koy Sokha, provincial governor in Pursat, where floods last week forced hundreds of people from their homes, said water levels in the Pursat and Tonle Sap rivers dropped yesterday.

More than 300 families in two Pursat districts last week were evacuated and assisted by the Red Cross, which is now helping to perform a damage assessment in Pursat alongside the provincial disaster management committee. Once that report is complete, he said the number of affected families could rise to more than 1,000.

The Cambodian Red Cross national office has spent about $20,000 in the past week on flood relief, Mr Sam Ath of NCDM said yesterday, adding that spending by individual provincial branches was not included in that figure.

Oddar Meanchey provincial Cabinet chief Chhim Savuth said yesterday that flooding in his province was all but gone. “Now the sky is clear. There is no more rain. So floods in some parts of the province have subsided,” he said. “If there is no more, I think [today] it will be dry.”

Thousands of hectares of rice paddies across the country have been affected or destroyed as well. Yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech that damages from this week’s flooding were comparable to those inflicted by Typhoon Ketsana last year.

“The rain flood, though it is not as nasty as Ketsana, yet it spread in many provinces and the effect is almost bigger,” he said. “If we talk about the destroyed rice in Pursat, it is bigger than the destroyed rice in Kompong Thom that Ketsana destroyed last year.”

In Banteay Meanchey province, deputy governor Mr Phoansophal said 10,000 hectares of rice paddy were flooded and 110 hectares in Phnom Srok district were completely destroyed.

Mr Sokha said yesterday that 6,242 hectares of rice paddy “will be completely destroyed” in Pursat province.

“That equals 6 percent of the total rice paddy fields in the whole province,” he said yesterday. “Now, we are calling for any donations to help the affected villagers.”

Keo Vy, deputy director of the National Committee for Disaster Management’s information department, said 1,701 hectares of rice paddy in Kompong Speu had been affected as well.

In Phnom Penh, Dangkao district governor Kith Sopha yesterday denied reports that residents had been evacuated due to a rising Preak Tnout river.

“There is no evacuation of people because we can control the situation,” he said.

According to Chan Yutha, Cabinet chief and spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the river had dropped from 6 meters on Sunday to 5.7 meters yesterday. The river’s normal depth is 4 meters, he added.

(Additional reporting by Drew Foster and Phorn Bopha)

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