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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Water drops, but challenges remain

Water drops, but challenges remain

Sre Kor village in Stung Treng province was left under more than a metre of water following Typhoon Ketsana. Aid workers say they are having difficulty reaching residents in Cambodia’s remote areas.


Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities say the remote Banteay Chhmar temple will remain safe from the aftereffects of Ketsana, despite floodwaters encroaching on the 12th-century ruins in recent days. Pov Samnang, director of the provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, said the flooding had eroded the eastern entrance to the temple, making it difficult for visitors to enter, but that quick action by authorities had prevented further inundation. “The roads around the temple have been flooded, so we hired workers to help put 500 sacks of sand to obstruct the water from entering the temple,” he said. However, Tourism Department Director Chong Lim said flooding had cut the road to the temple, making it difficult for tourists to visit the temple site for the time being. “If tourists want to go, we will provide them with this news, and if they still want to go, it is up to them,” he said.

NEARLY a week after Typhoon Ketsana first made landfall in Cambodia, a picture is emerging of the situation in Kampong Thom, the province hit hardest by the storm.

As floodwaters remain above head height in parts of the province, government officials and aid workers say displaced villagers residing in makeshift shelters on high ground are still vulnerable to food shortages and a lack of proper sanitation.

Kampong Thom provincial Governor Chhun Chhorn said water levels had started to decline slowly after peaking earlier this week, but that thousands of families remain in limbo following the storm.

He estimated that 2,000 families in the province’s Prasat Sambo, Kampong Svay and Stung Sen districts faced food shortages as a result of the floods, which have wiped out rice stores and village crops.

Francis Perez, country head of Oxfam International, said 2-metre-deep floodwaters still covered parts of Prasat Sambo district, driving villagers from their traditional stilt houses.

Affected villagers in Kampong Thom had regrouped into “safe areas” scattered along roads and in other high-lying parts of the province, he said, but continue to face food shortages and the threat of disease.

In one safe zone inside Kampong Thom’s seventh-century Sambor Prey Kuk temple park, villagers and their cattle remained in a vulnerable position despite the efforts of the local authorities and the provision of limited numbers of cooking utensils, tents and water filters.

“The shelters are very much exposed because there are no trees,” Perez said.

He said also that the difficulty of reaching outlying areas of the province has made it difficult to judge exactly how many people had been affected by the post-Ketsana floods.

“Some of the villages are not officially on our maps – they are settlements of a just few families,” he said. “We don’t know how many there are.”

For those trapped in safe areas with inadequate shelter and sanitation, he added, diarrhoea and malaria remain the main threats to public health.
The sentiment was echoed by Tol Bunkeang, director of the Centre for Combating Malaria in the Phnom Penh Department of Health.

“We have prepared medicine, treated mosquito nets and many agents in an attempt to stem the spread of malaria [in flood areas],” he said on Tuesday.

In Siem Reap, provincial authorities have recovered the body of Am Kong Chamroeun, 17, believed killed in the aftermath of the storm. The victim’s aunt, Am Srey Mich, 50, said the boy’s body was found floating in the Siem Reap River at about 5:45pm Monday, about 300 metres from Wat Bo bridge, where he often played.

Kratie provincial Governor Kham Phoeun said on Tuesday that floodwaters, which have inundated the province’s five districts, were creeping downwards, but that around 8,000 hectares of rice fields had been destroyed.

According to the National Committee for Disaster Management, the Cambodian death toll from Ketsana rose to 21 on Tuesday with news of four deaths in Preah Sihanouk province.

Committee communication officer Keo Vy said the flooding had so far affected 78,755 hectares of rice paddies, destroying 22,020 hectares, and has ruined 194 homes.

Also Tuesday, Men Neary Sopheak, deputy secretary general of the Cambodian Red Cross, said the organisation had received US$441,375 from a fundraising concert held by Bayon TV on Monday night.

She said that CRC had also received 250 water purifiers from the German embassy and 275 tents from French Red Cross.



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