Flooding, swift current seen as potential hazards during festival.
PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES ... WITH BOATS IN THE
COMPETITION NEED TO THINK ABOUT THEIR TEAMS’ SAFETY.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen advised boat-racing teams to exercise caution when competing in unusually high waters during this weekend’s Water Festival as trial races began on Tuesday.
“All provincial authorities and all pagodas with boats in the competition need to think about their teams’ safety while travelling [on the river] because the water is still high. It would be best to send health officers or doctors along with them,” the prime minister said.
A strong rainy season and persistent flooding since Typhoon Ketsana have engorged Cambodia’s river systems, presenting this weekend’s racers with the danger of a fast, powerful and unpredictable current.
Am Vanny, chairman of the Phnom Penh Boat Racing Committee, said Wednesday that the race’s organisers had set up 10 health stations along the course.
“There will be 10 health officers at each station and [a larger staff at] the main medical centre in the Chrouy Changvar primary school, near the Chroy Changvar Bridge, in order to save people on time,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that in addition to the emergency response stations, City Hall had arranged to “have speedboats standing by… along the riverside”.
In Kratie, Governor Kham Phoeun said he had urged the 33 boat teams from his province to keep safety in mind while paddling to the capital and had also provided them with medical support.
“Three or four doctors will come with the boat racers in order to look after them and save them in the event of an emergency,” he said, adding that his province takes similar safety precautions every year.
The Water Festival is the biggest event on the Cambodian calendar: An estimated 2 million people descend on the capital for three days of celebration every year. This year, the festival takes place from November 1 to 3.
The National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals said there are 391 boats registered to compete this year.