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Panel assesses Ketsana’s toll

091019_04
Villages carry their belongings to safety from floodwaters in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana in Kampong Thom earlier this month.

THE National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) presented its first assessment of Typhoon Ketsana’s overall toll on Cambodia on Friday, reporting that the storm killed 36 people and caused an estimated US$41 million in damages.

Keo Vy, communications officer for the NCDM, said Friday’s dollar figure was certain to rise.

“The $41 million referred to the destruction of rice fields, houses and domestic animals only,” he said. “Damage to the irrigation system and the education sector has not been added yet … so the cost of the damage would be more than this.”

According to figures cited by Bun Narith, deputy secretary general of the NCDM, 27,993 hectares of rice were damaged and hundreds of houses were destroyed. In addition, tens of thousands of residents have been displaced and are badly in need of food.

Bun Narith noted that, of the 11 provinces affected by the typhoon, Kampong Thom was the hardest-hit, losing 19,389 hectares of rice worth US$17 million. Twenty of the 36 deaths occurred there as well.

Nhem Vanda, first deputy chairman of the NCDM, said he hoped the new data on Cambodia’s reconstruction needs would make foreign donors more responsive. He said many countries wanted to help Cambodia, but that first “they need a precise report” about the damage sustained.

“So we will submit our official report to the government so [that] the government can find … foreign donors,” he said.

Also last week, Phnom Penh was host to a Mekong Regional Forum meeting on establishing a law that would make it easier for regional countries to integrate their responses to disasters and epidemics.

Nhem Vanda said legal barriers had hampered cross-border efforts in the past.

“Previously, we have responded and intervened, but we do not have a law for such operations yet,” he said.

“That is why, even though we have been successful in some tasks, our [international] operations have not always been good enough.”

Victoria Barton, Asia-Pacific programme coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross, said such a law should be a high priority because regional countries are “facing many problems caused by disasters and the spread of diseases”. She added that their challenges were compounded by the difficulty they faced obtaining foreign aid.

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