GOVERNMENT figures released this week suggest Cambodia suffered US$140 million in damages after Typhoon Ketsana swept through the country, a figure pegged well beyond previous tallies of the storm’s destruction.
The new number came as government and aid groups met in Phnom Penh to plot a rebuilding strategy, and one official warned that some Cambodians still lack the means to feed themselves.
The latest in a running tally of Ketsana’s toll – US$140 million, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) – is more than three times the $41 million compiled in October.
“This year, Typhoon Ketsana gave us a lesson that natural disasters are still a problem for all countries in the world,” said NCDM First Vice President Nhim Vanda.
The NCDM is reporting that 43 people died and 67 others were severely injured after Ketsana’s lashing winds and rain – and the resulting floods – swept through the country in late September. As officials are strategising on how to tackle the task of rebuilding, many victims are still living in emergency conditions, said one aid group.
“There are families who still need food assistance now,” said Francis Perez, Oxfam’s country director in Cambodia. Many in hard-hit regions, he said, risk falling into long-term poverty by resorting to dangerous strategies to feed their families.
Some farmers, for example, have been selling their cattle at rock-bottom prices. Others who have no assets are borrowing money, promising to pay it back with cheap labour at 2,000 riels (US$0.48) a day.
“How could you possibly fill your family’s needs with 2,000 riels a day?” asked Perez.
Today, officials will conclude a two-day training course aimed at solidifying the rebuilding plan.
Aid officials will then fan out to affected regions to assess the long-term damage.
Their findings will be used in formulating official recovery budget requests for various ministries.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY