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Floods could surpass ’96 levels

Residents paddle through rising water around flooded market stalls in Stung Treng province’s Stung Treng town
Residents paddle through rising water around flooded market stalls in Stung Treng province’s Stung Treng town. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Floods could surpass ’96 levels

The death toll from recent flooding continued to rise yesterday, with meteorology officials voicing concerns that floods in some parts of the country could rival the catastrophic ones of 1996, which claimed almost 170 lives and affected more than a million Cambodians nationwide.

At least 25 people in Cambodia have died so far because of a fast-rising floods affecting the northwest provinces, the Ministry of Water and Meteorology said yesterday. Three provinces still face increasing water levels, which could reach disastrous proportions.

“We predict the flooding in three provinces – Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham – this year might be the same as the situation in 1996,” National Committee for Disaster Management chief Keo Vy said.

Severe flooding in 1996 caused the deaths of 169 people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. A report by the Asian Disaster Reduction Center details the 1996 waters affecting 1.3 million Cambodians in 13 provinces, damaging 600,000 hectares of crops and destroying 50,000 homes.

The current flooding, brought on by heavy rains and dams opened in Thailand and Vietnam, has caused the Mekong River to break its banks and surge beyond normal levels, affecting at least seven provinces.

With water stations in the three hardest hit provinces recording a 10-year high – 12 metres in Stung Treng, 16 metres in Kampong Cham and 23 metres in Kratie – the river has met and surpassed the serious flood alert level of 12 metres.

The flood has forced thousands of families to leave their homes for higher ground.

Duon Pov, director of Stung Treng Provincial Hall, said more than 100 families have been evacuated from Stung Treng town and the surrounding areas in Thala Barivat commune. Kim Sarouen, director of agriculture in Kampong Cham, said that the flood had hit five districts, destroying 2,629 hectares of rice farms.

“Outside, residents are dead and infrastructure is destroyed. We are worrying that their farmland will be completely destroyed, which affects their way of living and ability to support themselves,” he said.

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