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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Flooding fears hit capital

Flooding fears hit capital

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People wade through floodwaters in Siem Reap town earlier this week.

Officals in Phnom Penh are bracing the city against rising floodwaters in the Tonle Sap and Mekong river system that have inundated areas of three provinces, as authorities upstream in Thailand warn that water levels in Thai dams are reaching dangerously high levels.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology issued a warning yesterday that floodwaters that have already hit Siem Reap, Kampong Thom and Battambang provinces, were also threatening Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham.

Chan Yutha, cabinet chief at the Ministry, said excavators and bulldozers would be sent to vulnerable areas of Phnom Penh, such as its Dangkor and Meanchey districts, to fend off potential deluges.

“We are ready to intervene instantly when the floods come. Intervention with machines is the most effective means to combat the flood,” he said, adding that vehicles would also be sent to parts of Kandal province.

Keo Vy, cabinet chief at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said there was little Cambodia could do  if  media reports that the Thai government planned to open dams that were close to capacity were true.

“No one knows how Banteay Meanchey will flood after Thai authorities release the flood [waters], but last year Thma Puok, Preah Neth Preah, Banteay Chmar and Malai districts, as well as Poipet town, were seriously flooded after they released floodwaters,” he said.

Thai government spokesman Titima Chaisang said yesterday  she could not confirm if any dam would be opened, but the Thai government would hold emergency talks over dams that were close to capacity.

“We are worried about the dams. Some of them are at 95 per cent of capacity,” she said, adding that floods were set to hit Bangkok. “There are many provinces [hit by flooding] and it’s going to get worse.”

Thailand’s The Nation newspaper reported yesterday that flood warnings had been issued in 14 Thai provinces where more than 80 people have died.

In Siem Reap, officials said 400 people had been forced out of their homes on the bank of the Tonle Sap Lake by flood waters that rose 55 centimetres on Monday before receding slightly yesterday.

District governor Tep Bun Chhay said on Sunday that families had built houses too close to the bank of Siem Reap River, which had receded.

“People recently went to the bank of the river to build their houses. The size of the river became smaller and smaller, so when the floods came, the river could not flow at the speed of its full capacity into the Tonle Sap Lake,” he said.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said  that floods had been caused by a low-pressure system that had sped up water flows in Laos and Thailand since September 8.

Heavy rain in northern and western Cambodia was raising water levels in the Mekong river system. “Farming at lower parts of the Mekong, Tonle Sap and the Bassac and some other flooded zones should be suspended until the end of September to avoid any loss caused by flooding,” the ministry said.

Five houses were partly swept into the Mekong River in Kratie province during a storm on Sunday, Chet Borei district governor Tun Ngok said yesterday, while a 49-year-old woman was injured when houses collapsed in Thmor Kre commune.

Heng Rothamonida, head of Kratie provincial water resource and meteorology department, said he had warned villagers that water levels were expected to continue rising and were sitting just under alert level.

More than 1,000 people were forced to abandon their homes in Kampong Thom province due to flooding on the weekend.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE, KIM YUTHANA AND THIK KALIYANN

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