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Ketsana leaves trail of dead in north, central provinces

Kampong Thom Province

TYPHOON Ketsana slammed into Cambodia with devastating force Tuesday night, killing at least 11 people and leaving thousands more injured or homeless as 145km/h winds and heavy rain lashed the Kingdom.

The tail end of the storm, which has killed hundreds of people since it smashed into the Philippines on Saturday, was the most severe ever to lash Cambodia, experts said.

“This is the first time that we have seen such a storm,” said Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

Disaster officials confirmed on Wednesday that nine were killed and 35 injured in central Cambodia, while two died in the northeast. The death toll is expected to rise, with reports of more fatalities continuing to emerge across the country last night.

Kampong Thom province bore the brunt of the disaster. At least nine people were crushed to death when their homes collapsed on Tuesday night, said Chea Cheat, chief of the local Red Cross office.

In one incident, five members of one family – spanning three generations – died in Teak Mileang, a village in the Sandan district of Kampong Thom province. A 39-year-old woman, her mother, 15-year-old daughter, 14-year-old son and a baby were killed almost instantly when the roof of their house caved in. Only the husband, who was hunting in the forest when the storm struck, survived.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan, Peter Olszewski and AFP
Hundreds of homes were destroyed when Typhoon Ketsana slammed into Cambodia on Tuesday night, killing at least 11 people. Kampong Thom was hardest-hit (above and inset), while heavy rains swelled the river in Siem Reap.

“The family died because they were in the house to shelter themselves from the rain,” said Sin Chea, a relative, who said he barely escaped with his own life. “I was sitting under my house when the storm hit. When the storm came, I ran away. That’s why I survived. Fifteen minutes later, my house was destroyed.”

A neighbour who witnessed the tragedy compared it to the horrors of Cambodia’s bloody civil war. Meas Sophea, 38, said: “My neighbours are all dead and our houses have been destroyed, just as they were during the civil war.” After seeing the storm destroy her neighbours’ home, she fled to the pagoda but suffered a broken leg when it, too, collapsed. “When I saw [my neighbours’] bloodstains on the ground, I ran out of my house to the pagoda, but then the pagoda also fell down,” she said.

Pang Phot, a police officer, said the storm struck quickly. “It was raining heavily and people could not flee their homes because the wind hit immediately,” he said. “I have never seen such a strong wind in my life. It punched the village immediately. It shocked us. Many wooden houses were immediately blown away and many others collapsed to the ground.”

In addition to the official death toll, three more people were reported dead in Siem Reap province, deputy Governor Bun Tharith said. One man was killed in Angkor Thom district when his house collapsed while he slept. Another died when he fell from his fishing boat in Chikrei district. Details of the third death could not be confirmed last night. Severe flooding was also reported in Siem Reap, where the river reached dangerous levels

By Wednesday, the typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm. Although the worst of Ketsana is now over, the final death toll is yet to come, officials say.

“We have still not had reports from some districts,” said Ly Samreth, chief of cabinet for Siem Reap province, noting that many people in his province were caught out by the storm depite repeated warnings – including one from Prime Minister Hun Sen – last week. “Cambodian people weren’t prepared for Ketsana despite the forecast,” he said.

A Cambodia Red Cross (CRC) official confirmed that the storm had taken some villages by surprise. “We already informed the local villagers to be careful, but they seemed not to pay much attention on the issue, and when the storm occurred, it damaged a lot of properties,” said Neth Sophanna, the CRC’s vice director of disaster management.

“We have not yet counted the number of families affected. We are still investigating further to evaluate the scope of the damages.”




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