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Hun Sen says Kingdom ‘ready’ for floods

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Cars and motorbikes navigate a flooded street in Phnom Penh last year. Heng Chivoan

Hun Sen says Kingdom ‘ready’ for floods

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday announced that his government was already prepared to confront heavy flooding and warned people to be ready for rising waters which, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, might strike Cambodia this year.

Speaking at the headquarters of the Cambodian Red Cross in Phnom Penh to celebrate the 155th World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Hun Sen ordered the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) to be in a fit state to deal with potential national disasters. “This year, I call for the readiness to the possibility of floods due to the forecast of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

“The flooding was small before but this year, there could be a huge flood . . . we must be ready to solve this problem through the mechanism of the NCDM, the Cambodian Red Cross and through state machinery at all levels.”

He stated that the government has prepared budgets and emergency food supplies to address any immediate crises that could spring up. He asked the Cambodian Red Cross, headed by his wife Bun Rany, to be ready to respond to any possible natural disaster that could threaten the country and its people.

According to a preliminary statement on water level prediction issued by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology at the end of last month, the natural processes in the Mekong River Basin and Cambodia are “being affected by the transitional pressure amid El Nino and La Nina”.

The statement also says the temperature in the eastern Pacific is lower than those in its southern and western portions, leading to moderate and heavy rainfall levels during the rainy season. Monsoons typically last from the first week of May until the middle of November in Southeast Asia.

“According to current water level in the Mekong River, the climate factors, and the analysis of the relationship between maximum and minimum water levels, the first forecast shows that the water levels at Basac-Chaktomuk hydrological station could be up to 10.05 metres deep, indicating heavy flooding.”

Keo Vy, NCDM spokesperson, assured that his committee has already taken measures to prepare for natural disasters which may happen in the near future. “We are always prepared at the provincial levels,” Vy said. “The Royal Cambodian Arm Forces and the police will intervene to help the people after receiving orders from their units.”

He continued that if the water level at Basac-Chaktomuk stations rises to around 10.5 metres, that will be alarming, as the initial forecast by the Ministry of Water Resources predicted a level of only 10.05 metres.

Vy said the government is ready to face flood problems, with 16,000 tonnes of milled rice, 2,000 tonnes of rice seed and 50 tonnes of other cereal crops ready to be distributed to affected people. However, he said he did not have any data of the budget, as the funds will only be released in the event of a disaster.

He said that the flooding of the Mekong could be managed by utilising people’s knowledge and experience, but huge amounts of rainfall left conditions difficult to control. “[When] flooding happens quickly, most of us are not well prepared in the short term, which is dangerous,” he said.

He recalled the last major flooding episode in Cambodia in 2013, which covered 20 provinces and affected 37,000 households, or about 1.6 million people. Of the 45,000 families evacuated from homes, 24,000 houses were flooded, while 455 homes were destroyed by rising water.

He said that the floods in 2013 cost Cambodia about $356 million, while 168 people were killed and 29 others were injured.

Hun Sen yesterday assured that, “we will not allow any people to starve”.

Theng Savoen, president of the Coalition of Cambodia Farmer Community (CCFC), said government measures to prepare for floods are “not enough” and called on them to consider preparing low interest loans for farmers who are forced to replant crops because of flood damage.

He advised both government and people to be ready to face problems associated with major flooding, noting that information should be disseminated to communities living in threatened areas.

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