kampot town – Floodwaters that inundated Kampot province and claimed the lives of two men began receding yesterday as residents worked to clean up the drenched coastal area, parts of which remained submerged.
Officials blamed the rapid flooding on rains that pelted the area since last week and caused the banks of the Kamchay River, which runs through Kampot town, to overflow. Heavy showers in the mountainous area to the north in Kompong Speu province are also responsible, as the rainfall there drained south into the sea.
Although the worst was over, signs of the flooding were still visible yesterday along Nation Road 33, which crosses southeastern Kampot province through Kep municipality and Kampot town. Rice fields along the highway were swollen with water and segments of the road were swamped but passable.
In Kampot town—which saw waist- and chest-high water levels on Monday—fetid, trash-filled pools lingered in the streets and the town’s riverbanks stayed waterlogged.
“It rose and subsided very fast,” said Nop Tithtola, who lives in Kampot town. “It was very bad here, especially next to the river.”
Provincial Governor Khoy Khun Hour said the floodwaters covered Kampot town and Toek Chhou district, inundating 10 villages in five different communes. Overall, he estimated roughly 11,850 families and 6,970 hectares of rice fields were affected.
The governor said no damage estimate was available yet for the province but confirmed that two men were killed in the flood. He said provincial authorities are currently helping affected residents repair any damage to their homes and farms as well as monitoring their sanitary conditions.
“Right now, the urgent strategy is for all officials to relocate [villagers] and keep finding solutions and providing medicine,” he said. “And now, the flood upstream and in the provincial town is subsiding.”
He said continual rain from Thursday to Sunday triggered the rise in water levels and claimed the construction of hydroelectric dams upriver was not a factor.
The deluge, the governor and residents said, was the second heavy flood the area has experienced this year, the first taking place in mid-July.
Seated at his restaurant near the center of town, Min Chhom said the floodwaters rose from the street to just shy of his raised doorway in three hours. His business suffered no damage but the swiftly rising tide sent him scurrying to move tables, chairs and cooking equipment inside to higher ground.
“You could not cross. You could not go anywhere,” he said, gesturing to the damp roadway outside. “Yesterday on this street a small boat came across here carrying people.”
“This year it is bigger than other years,” he added about the flood.
Rice seller Keo Sokhom said the foul waters soaked 20 sacks of un-milled grains, potentially ruining a sizable piece of her stock.
She and other workers spent yesterday laying out the rice in front of an electric fan, in an attempt to save it.
“If [today] there is no sunshine to dry the rice then it will grow,” she said from her shop across from Samaki Market.
Another area hit hard by the inundation was the Kampot provincial hospital, which sits on the edge of the Kamchay River. The hospital campus resembled a marshland yesterday with pockets of standing water swamping the grounds and walkways.
A resident of Kompong Bay district, Sin Sarah said she took three different boats from her home to reach the medical facility, which is normally accessible by road, to transport her pregnant daughter.
“It was very difficult but we had to get here, she had to give birth,” Mrs Sarah said from the now-dry lobby of the maternity ward.
She said a citywide blackout instituted to prevent electrical shock or other problems also did not help the situation. In the end, however, the delivery Monday of her granddaughter went off without a hitch.
“My daughter gave birth without electricity—by flashlight,” she said smiling.
Visiting Kampot town yesterday morning, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for more research into ways to redirect excess water flowing downstream to Kampot town and deepening the channels of rivers that empty into the sea.
“The flooding of the people in Kampot does not seem like an accident. It has become the normal habit for the people in Kampot,” the premier said.
“I must come to see the real situation and study to find further actions to respond” to such flooding, he added.
During his morning visit, the premier also gave food and 5 million riel, or $1,250, to each of the families of two flood victims who went missing Monday and were found drowned yesterday.