PERSISTENT flooding in several areas of the Kingdom could result in more than US$100 million worth of damage, the National Committee for Disaster Management said yesterday.
Flood waters have killed 207 people since early September and forced more than 32,000 families from their homes, according to data from the NCDM. More than 445,530 hectares of the country’s most important agricultural product, rice paddy, have either been affected or destroyed. About 160 bridges are submerged, while 2,962 kilometres of roads have been impaired.
The dollar figure has ballooned since late last month as estimates on road, crop and building damages from Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces have become available.
About 318,900 hectares of rice, or 13 per cent of the country’s total crop, have been affected by the floods, with about 126,600 hectares completely destroyed. Also, more than 630 hectares of rice seedlings have been affected, putting at risk the harvest that runs between November and February. “We see the biggest effect of the flooding is on rice,” NCDM Vice President Nhim Vanda said yesterday at a press conference in Phnom Penh, adding that farmers depend on the crop for income and sustenance.
“So this is the point that the government and local authorities have to worry about the people’s living standards.”
Despite the NCDM’s bleak report, some experts said the recent doubling of rice prices in Thailand will protect the Cambodian rice industry from substantial loss.
A government-mandated jump from about $250 to about $500 per tonne of rice will see many Thai rice millers sourcing the grain from Cambodia in the coming months, Tim Purcell, director of consulting company Agriculture Development International, said yesterday.
The decline in rice production due to floods will be marginal, due to the 113,180-hectare increase in wet season planting between 2010 and 2011, which will supplement much of the flood damages, Purcell added.
Of the more than 11,700 hectares of other crops affected, 3,800 have been destroyed, according to NCDM, while about 1,657 livestock also perished in the waters.
The floods have destroyed 640 houses and 1,132 school buildings in the past three weeks. Although the NCDM did not provide a figure for structural damages, villagers in Kampong Thom who spoke with the Post late last month said new village homes, which traditionally are raised some three metres above the ground, cost about $6,000.
Doung Savorn of Teak Andoung village in Kampong Thom province returned to her home in mid September to find a corner of the raised building had collapsed into metre-high waters. The 52-year-old rice farmer said she will salvage wood from the now uninhabitable home and estimates rebuilding will cost about $1,500.
The floods, the worst in at least a decade, also destroyed 85 hospitals and 401 pagodas.
In cities and regions that attract travellers, all players in the tourism industry – from tuk tuk drivers to the resort owners – have been affected by the floods, Tourism Working Group co-chair Ho Vandy said yesterday.
Industry experts have yet to put an estimate on the damages to buildings and business, but he said the working group will submit a request for compensation to the government next month. Many tourist establishments have sustained damages in Siem Reap, which is visited by 60 per cent of Cambodia’s international tourist.
Renaud Fichet, a local restaurant owner, said his business has been spared major damages, but many restaurants and hotels in the city’s most visited area saw weeks of flooding and many closures.As the water recedes in some areas, communities are at work rebuilding small roads, Nhim Vanda said. The NCDM estimates $20 million of the approximate $100 million will go to road and bridge repair.
Submerged roads are also hindering aid shipments to affected families, Uy Sam Ath, director of Cambodian Red Cross disaster management unit, said yesterday. “We face difficulties in transporting aid to the people and sometimes we [have to] use boats where the roads are destroyed,” he said.
Ministry of Public Works and Transportation director general Kim Borey said the ministry is planning road rehabilitation nationwide, but declined to comment further.
A timeframe for the discussed repair project was unavailable yesterday.