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Flood’s lessons linger in Kratie

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A worker unloads bricks at a factory outside Kratie town that was under a metre of water during last year’s floods. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

When 41-year-old Pheng Seng’s brick-making business was ravaged by flood in Kratie province a year ago, he lost about US$5,000.

“The water flowed straight into my kiln and destroyed 100,000 bricks,” he said from his workplace, on low-lying ground near the Mekong River.

Before last year, Seng had given little thought to a flood plan – but then it flooded twice, in August and October.

“This year, I have a plan to listen to the radio for any warnings and to monitor the level of the river,” he said. “I will immediately stop production if I’m aware a flood is coming.”

Kratie town also flooded this time a year ago. It was so bad that speedboats were seen zipping through the streets past submerged motorcycles with only the mirrors peaking above the waters like periscopes.

“It was up to my waist,” jewellery store owner Chan Doung Champa, 50, said yesterday, as mid-afternoon rain began to fall outside. “I tried to sandbag the shop to prevent water and sewage coming into the shop and house, but it was too late to save everything.”

Although she was better prepared when the floods that decimated Cambodia hit in October, Champa still fears her shop – which is also her family home – remains vulnerable in coming months.

“I have heard there will be a big flood again this year, and I’m very scared it will be worse and I will lose more income if my shop is damaged or closed.”

Since last year’s floods, which hit five Kratie districts, damaging thousands of hectares of rice fields, homes, schools and roads – affecting thousands of families – the local authority has created a prevention plan and tried to educate residents in safeguarding against floods, Kratie town Deputy Governor Koy Sambo said yesterday.

“We also have six designated areas of high ground that people can move to in the event of another flood,” she said.

Despite also creating a flood disaster fund and investing in items such speedboats, Sambo said the authority was concerned about more flooding.

So too is Kratie town shop owner Be Pov, 56, who has built high shelves along her shop’s wall to minimise the damage.

“The authorities have since given us information over the radio and through microphones on motorbikes . . . but I’m still worried,” she said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at sophakchakrya.khouth@phnompenhpost.com and Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com reporting from Kratie town

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