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Storm renews flood worries

120726_03

Villagers cross floodwaters on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last year. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Heavy rainfall, pre­dicted to lash Cambodia’s upper Mekong over the next few days as the effects of Tropical Storm Vicente hit the country’s north has left many bracing for another flood catastrophe.

The expected deluge has also worried medical experts, who are planning increased monitoring and coordination of medical supplies in flood risk areas.

By this Saturday, the water level in Stung Treng is predicted to rise 19 centimetres from its current level of 4.96 metres, while Kratie could expect a rise of eight centimetres.

“According to our statistics … due to the Vicente storm, there will be more rain in the upper Mekong, so the water at Stung Treng will begin to rise and other areas will follow suit,” director of the Department of Hydrology and River Work within the Ministry of Water, Moa Hak, said.

Communications and Media Relations Officer for Cambodia’s World Health Organization, Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan, said medical experts were worried diseases and conditions suffered by people in affected areas could worsen if relief efforts are not tightly coordinated.

“The Tonle Sap lake is already filled to the brim, and satellite pictures indicate that we are actually preparing for [another] flooding disaster,” he said.

Responding to a question about whether floods would exacerbate the spread of the EV-71 virus, he said it was difficult to predict its manifestations.

The 2011 floods, the worst in more than a decade, engulfed 18 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, affecting more than a million people, killing hundreds and leaving many stranded without aid for weeks due to what observers felt was a lack of coordination by the government’s National Disaster Management Committee and NGOs.

Krishnan maintained lessons had been learned from last year’s disaster.

“Last year, we learned we have to keep a watch on our health centres in vulnerable provinces to make sure that there are adequate supplies of essential medicine.

“The lesson is there has to be better coordination,” he said.

Yesterday, more than 100 NGOs and government officials met at the capital’s Intercontinental Hotel for a two-day Disaster Risk Reduction Forum.

First vice president of the NDMC, Nhim Vanda, said it was vital to highlight the local community’s role in preparing and warning villagers of flood disasters.

“We do not want to see many die of flood like last year – this year’s [floods] arrive soon … [but] we are ready on a national, local and inter-ministry level. Moreover, the local officials who were recently elected must all complete this obligation,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at david.sen@phnompenhpost.com
Claire Knox at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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