Specter of Typhoon Approaching Raises Fears of More Floods

As monthlong flooding that has so far left 122 dead slowly subsides, officials and relief agencies were on Sunday concerned that a powerful typhoon approaching Vietnam may bring more heavy rain and the risk of more floods to provinces where tens of thousands of families have already been displaced.

Thirteen people were killed by Typhoon Nari in the Philippines on the weekend and almost 50,000 more displaced before the storm moved north into the South China Sea, where it is expected to make landfall in Central Vietnam at 6 p.m. today, according to the U.S. Navy and Air Force Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Though the storm will weaken as it crosses land, last month’s Typhoon Wutip, which was downgraded to a tropical storm, nonetheless brought torrential rain to Cambodia and a surge in the Mekong River that caused the worst of the floods, which have forced 21,000 families to flee to overcrowded evacuation zones, where poor sanitation is of increasingly concern to aid agencies.

Oum Ryna, deputy director of the department of meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said that authorities were concerned that the new weather front could hamper ongoing relief efforts and cause floodwaters that are currently receding to move back to­ward emergency level again.

“This storm is still in [the] middle of the South China Sea, it has not arrived in Vietnam yet but we are continuing to monitor the storm because it can affect Cam­bodia with heavy rains,” Mr. Ryna said.

“We are worried about the impact of Typhoon Nari and whether it will arrive in Cambodia so we will issue a notification warning about the storm [today],” he continued, adding, however, that it would likely weaken as it crossed over Vietnam and Southern Laos.

Nhim Vanda, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said that 122 people had died over the past month, while 120,000 homes have been flooded, 25,000 homes evacuated, and 250,000 hectares of rice paddy flooded leaving a total of about 1.5 million people affected.

Aid groups have helped to evacuate families and bring food, clean water and sanitation kits to those living in so-called “safety areas.”

“We have helped more than 6,000 families so far so, and tomorrow we are going to newly affected areas in Kompong Thom province where 300 more families have been evacuated to safety areas, so of course the coming storm is a big concern as we are afraid that the water levels will increase again,” said Kim Rattana, executive director of charity Caritas Cambodia.

“With water receding, we are planning early recovery support including providing agricultural training and providing seeds and animal feed to help farmers rebuild. But from our information, this storm will affect Cambodia, so we are awaiting further information to see how this will affect our plans,” he said.

Vireak Leng, senior program manager for economics, agriculture and development at aid agency World Vision, said that a $500,000 budget has been put in place for three-month and nine-month early recovery projects that will repair health centers and schools and provide families with support to recover from the floods.

“We have not experienced this many times where one big storm follows another, so we anticipate preparing ourselves to provide more support,” he said.

“We are monitoring its [Typhoon Nari’s] movement closely every three hours and informing our ground-level staff in threatened areas, to assess what needs to be done.

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