With the death toll from nationwide flooding climbing to 206 over the weekend and lengthy sections of banks along the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers at risk of collapse, the government was urged yesterday to call for international assistance.
“I think the government needs to launch an appeal to the international community for assistance,” Kim Rattana, executive director of relief agency Caritas, said yesterday. “Foreign donors are waiting for an official appeal before they will donate.”
The statement followed Saturday’s warning from the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology that riverbanks were in danger of collapse. People living along rivers faced the greatest danger and were urged by the ministry to pay close attention to the state of riverbanks. The statement also enlisted other ministries and local authorities to monitor the risk faced by people living alongside rivers.
“Because the riverbanks are wet and soft from the long period of flooding, they are more susceptible to collapse,” the ministry said.
National Committee for Disaster Management vice president Nhim Vanda said 206 people were reported dead, more than one million people had been affected by the floods and more than 100,000 hectares of rice fields had been inundated with floodwaters.
Nhim Vanda went to Phnom Penh International Airport on Saturday to receive emergency aid sent from the Japanese government, including desperately-needed water containers, tents, mosquito nets, mats and tanks for clean water, he said.
“Nearly 60,000 families have received aid from the government and charitable organisations,” Nhim Vanda said. “The government has donated US$500 to the families of each dead victim.”
Cambodian Red Cross and National Committee for Disaster Management officials are coordinating the distribution of aid to flood victims, he said.
Caritas’ Kim Rattana said the organisation was focusing on distributing immediate response aid, shelter kits and mobile health clinics.
“We have distributed aid to 3,500 families in Kampong Thom, but there are still quite a number of families who are waiting for aid,” Kim Rattana said, adding that Caritas was submitting a proposal to the World Food Program to cover another 5,000 families in the province.
Oxfam spokesman Soleak Seang echoed concerns that families affected by the flooding had not yet received support.
“Kampong Thom is the area worst hit by the flooding and we have heard from our field officers there that people are still waiting for aid to be distributed,” Soleak Seang said. “Some of the families there have told our field officers that they will run out of food in the next few days.” Kampong Thom provincial governor Chhon Chhun said there were 12,411 families in the province that were yet to
receive aid. “Each family will receive emergency aid, such as 25 kilograms of rice, noodles, canned fish, mosquito nets and blankets,” he said.
On Friday, Phnom Penh municipal governor Kep Chuktema appealed to “excellencies, Okhnas, ladies and gentlemen, businesspersons, craftsmen, investors and generous individuals” for donations of money and household items for flood victims.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday sent her “deepest condolences” to the victims of flooding in Southeast Asia and said the US was assessing how it could help those affected.
There has so far been no official request from the Cambodian government for foreign assistance.