Thousands of students were unable to attend classes yesterday after returning from holiday, as more than 500 schools remained closed due to flooding that has claimed 50 lives so far this year.
According to a report released by the National Committee for Disaster Management, 513 schools in six provinces shuttered their doors citing an expected lack of attendance.
The worst-affected provinces were Kampong Cham and Prey Veng, where disruptions caused by the deluge were reported in dozens of districts. In Kampong Cham, 187 schools in 13 districts were closed, while 165 schools in 12 districts postponed the new term in Prey Veng.
Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, Kratie and Stung Treng were also affected.
Svay Phally, director of Kampong Cham’s Department of Education, said rising water levels had affected students of all ages, forcing education officials to cancel schools’ opening ceremonies.
“We could not hold open ceremonies because of the flooded schools,” he said. “We will announce how long studies will be delayed for after the flooding dies down, but unaffected schools will be open as usual.”
Hem Sophal, director of Prey Veng’s Department of Education, said at least 165 schools in the province were forced to close, adding that the department would release new timetables for students who would miss classes.
“It is difficult for students and teachers to travel to school due to flooding. That is why they could not come to school on time; anyway, we will make a new timetable for them after the flood dies down. They will study an extra hour and [will be able to catch up with] other students who were not affected by the floods,” he said.
In Phnom Penh, a municipal disaster-monitoring delegation measured the river levels in the capital, where the Mekong River has been threatening to reach critical levels.
Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said experts and officials would continue to monitor the water levels to ensure the safety of residents whose houses abut the Mekong.
However, he emphasised that while the risk of flooding in the capital necessitated continued vigilance, it had not yet reached the 10.5-metre point at which the alarm would be raised.
“If the water level reaches 10.5 metres, Phnom Penh municipality will be ready to protect [residents], but right now, it is not a serious danger to the residents who live along the river,” he said.
The 160 families affected by the floodwaters in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, he added, were receiving aid from the local authorities.
More than 100 boats and dredging equipment were seized yesterday in Kandal province in an attempt to prevent further erosion of the riverbank, which could place residents at risk.
In Kampong Cham, a 60-year-old Chinese man, Zhang Wenhua, an employee of plantation firm Phan Tong Hong, was killed when the boat he was travelling in capsized in swollen waters in Danbe district’s Trapaing Pring commune. Four other Chinese nationals and one Cambodian escaped alive.