Tropical Storm to Bring Flash Floods; Rice Farmers Rejoice

A tropical storm currently passing over central Vietnam is predicted to bring torrential rain and flash floods to Phnom Penh and the surrounding provinces this week, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

In a statement Friday, the ministry warned of possible flooding in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kampong Speu, Kandal, Takeo, Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Kompong Thom and Siem Reap. Heavy rains are expected to begin on Tuesday and subside by Friday.

Contacted Sunday, ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said the storm could also produce dangerous conditions off the coast.

“Fishing and tourist boats are very small and are easily damaged by big waves caused by strong winds,” he said. “This could result in waves taller than those boats. That’s why we have asked them to stop operations for a while to avoid endangering people’s lives.”

But while the heavy rains predicted to fall could lead to flooding, the water is desperately needed by the country’s rice farmers, who have been plagued by drought in a number of provinces.

The Agriculture Ministry warned last month that drought, combined with labor shortages, could keep the government from meeting its 2015 rice production target of about 2.57 million hectares.

“Now the rain is coming and the farmers are rushing to their fields,” said Hean Vanhan, deputy director-general of the Agriculture Ministry’s general department of agriculture.

“This is a good thing because they can restore the [normal] situation, but we could face flooding if the rainfall is too great, especially in the lowland areas,” he said. “That’s why we need to continue tracking the level of the rain.”

Samath Veasna, an executive member of the Cambodian Rice Federation, said the expected rainfall made him more optimistic about this year’s yield.

“We can see that some rain is coming and farmers are smiling and looking happy and they have started plowing and sowing rice seeds,” he said. “The situation for rice production is better now, even after all that they have lost due to the drought.”

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