In the wake of a flood-induced car crash in Prey Veng province yesterday that left at least four people dead and three others missing, police were left to seek answers from the sole survivor – a man who doesn’t speak any language known to authorities.
As of press time, police were still unable to communicate with the man, who they determined was part of a group of seven people travelling from Prey Veng to Phnom Penh.
“The living man was brought to be treated at a healthcare centre, but he has not told us the reason for the accident, because while we have English, French, Turkish, Arabic and Russian interpreters to talk with him, he still cannot understand. Finally, we took a map and he pointed to Syria,” Orn Sokun, Ba Phnom district police chief, told the Post.
According to police, the survivor was found yesterday at 3am in Ba Phnom district’s Theay commune after residents spotted him clinging to a tree and a Camry sedan stuck in the flooded creek. The residents radioed police, who found the bodies of two women believed to be 17 years old and 24 years old, and two little boys between the ages of two and five.
With a series of gesticulations, the survivor indicated that a five-year-old girl, another man, and the Cambodian driver were all missing.
“We are really upset we could not find any evidence to identify the victims, because when we pulled out the car from over two meters of water, the back trunk of the car was opened, and all the stuff inside flowed out. One of the doors was also opened, so all of their belongings were lost,” said Seng Sopheak, deputy police commissioner of Prey Veng province, who added that the driver likely did not realise how badly flooded the route was.
Police said a local NGO helped identify the survivor as a man named Rozan, a common Kurdish name.
Authorities are still looking for the missing passengers and driver. Police are sending the survivor to Phnom Penh today after a burial of the bodies.
The Syrian Embassy in Beijing and the Syrian Consulate in Thailand could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The four deaths in Prey Veng mark 47 lives claimed by flooding that has affected 14 Cambodian provinces.
“Most of the dead are children, so their parents must be careful watching them during the flooding,” said Keo Vy, director of the National Committee for Disaster Management.
He added that in Kampong Cham, the province with the highest number of casualties, 18 people have drowned.
Though the Kratie and Kampong Cham river stations have seen a dip in the water level, flooding remains above emergency levels in both provinces.
The lower Mekong River Basin is expected to continue to see more water as tropical storm Wutip delivers heavy rain through today.
In Phnom Penh, the river reading reached 10.26 meters yesterday, still below the 10.5 meter emergency level.
So far, 9,509 families have been evacuated to higher ground, including 162 from Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. A total of 67,551 houses have been affected, while 93,104 hectares of rice field has been flooded.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEN DAVID, LAIGNEE BARRON AND CHEANG SOKHA