In the first reported fatal flooding of the wet season, a weekend deluge across 13 provinces left at least five people dead, according to officials, who say that more destruction could be approaching.
As of yesterday, two people had drowned in Kratie, one in Stung Treng and another in Kandal province, said Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management. A local official in Kep reported a drowning in an open well obscured by floodwaters.
“If the rains continue for another seven days, there may be more flooding,” Vy said.
Vy said the exact scope of the damage isn’t yet known, and the reported death toll could rise. His office is still gathering reports from provincial officials.
In Kratie, according to Vy, floods inundated 3,000 hectares of farmland, 3,080 houses and 18 schools, forcing 611 families to be evacuated. In Kampong Cham, three rivers spilled over their banks, although no houses are reported to have been affected.
Floodwater overflowed onto thousands of hectares of farmland in Prey Veng and Ratanakkiri as well, he said.
While Kratie Provincial Governor Sar Chamrong said he didn’t believe the floods were truly serious yet, he urged caution given that water has risen above warning levels.
“Two people drowned due to the rain in Kratie, so we would like to appeal to people to be very wary, especially young children, because incidents can occur if we are careless,” he said.
Soeung Chanthou, 28, died on Friday afternoon in Kep province’s O’Krasar commune after she slid into a 9-metre well, said Hem Soksan, commune police chief.
“The victim did not remember where the opening of the well was, because it was covered by the rainwater, which has been pouring for days,” Soksan said. “Her family came to help, but they were unable to because the well was so deep. It took about three hours to retrieve her body.”
The three provinces most heavily affected by the Mekong River’s inundation were Kampong Cham, Stung Treng and Kratie, said Chan Yutha, spokesman and cabinet chief at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.
The river should begin to recede this afternoon, he said.
“In Stung Treng, water will go down tomorrow, and in Kampong Cham, if it goes up, it will only go up by a little bit,” Yutha said.
“The situation is not serious yet – even though many provinces have been flooded. In some provinces just one district is inundated.”
The ministry has already prepared 200 pieces of heavy equipment in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Takeo, Svay Rieng, Oddar Meanchey and Battambang to divert water or mitigate overflows from inundated homes and farmland, Yutha added.
“Besides that, we always issue notices about water levels and changes in weather to people and authorities in order to alert them in advance,” he said.
Floods usually hit Cambodia between August and October. The current floods, though deadly, have been repeatedly predicted.
Floods in 2013 claimed 168 lives and injured 29 people.
Earlier in July, the National Committee for Disaster Management said it was ready for floods, with more than 10,000 tonnes of rice stocked and emergency supplies and rescue vehicles ready to go.
Mao Hak, deputy director of technical works at the Department of Hydrology and River Work, told the Post on Thursday that Phnom Penh was safe from flooding for the time being.