The death toll from flooding that has affected nearly all of Cambodia has hit 104, the National Committee of Disaster Management said yesterday. With more than 60,000 people having been evacuated, relief agencies are raising concerns over disease outbreak.
The most heavily hit province was Kampong Cham, where 26 people alone have died from flooding, NCDM vice chairman Nhim Vanda said.
“Now, we’ve completely tallied the reports from local authorities and can confirm that 104 people have died,” he said.
A report by the Humanitarian Response Forum released on Monday expressed concern over insufficient sanitation and water in evacuated areas where the risk is high of disease outbreak and contaminated food.
Yesterday, 600 families were evacuated from the Banan district in Battambang before water released from the Kampong Pouy basin caused a flash flood, Buth Sambo, a police chief of Banan district, said. He denied rumors that the Kampong Pouy basin was broken or collapsing.
In Banteay Meanchey, 19 military doctors have been sent by the Defence Ministry to treat more than 500 families evacuated in Poipet town, Deputy District Governor Men Sophan said.
Though water has inundated the halls and reaches up to a metre high outside the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison complex, prison authorities have taken no steps to evacuate inmates.
The prison is known to flood every year, but rights organisations are calling this flooding the worst seen since the detention centre opened in 2009.
“We have not taken any moves to evacuate the prisoners, because we can control the situation,” Banteay Meanchey prison director Hin Sophal said. “The water is creeping into the staff rooms, but it cannot go to the prisoners’ rooms.”
According to rights groups, with the building flooded, prisoners are not able to leave their overcrowded cells, leading to numerous sanitation and mental health concerns.
“We are concerned that if the water continues rising, the authorities will have to evacuate the prisoners to somewhere.…They are humans, not rocks …so they can escape when evacuated,” Som Chankear, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said.
Though the Ministry of Interior has said it plans to prevent the cells from flooding through sandbag banks and continuous water pumping, neither the ministry nor the prison had an idea of where the prisoners could be taken if necessary.
“It is normal, and where the prisoners stay is safe,” Kuy Bun Sorn, director general of the department of prisons in the Ministry of Interior, said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON