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Storms rage on in parts

Locals contend with rising floodwaters in Pailin province on Friday, as coastal and northwestern provinces were inundated over the weekend.
Locals contend with rising floodwaters in Pailin province on Friday, as coastal and northwestern provinces were inundated over the weekend. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Storms rage on in parts

Rainstorms have battered coastal areas and the Kingdom’s northwest, leaving hundreds of homes flooded and thousands of hectares of crops underwater, a disaster management official said yesterday.

Battambang province was the worst hit, with at least one death reported and some roads blocked by floodwaters, according to national and local officials.

“The storm hit the four provinces at the coast and four provinces in the northwest,” said Keo Vy, cabinet director and a spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).

“The provinces nearby the sea are Koh Kong province, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep province. The four provinces in the northwest that also flooded are Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat.”

Vy attributed the heavy flooding in Battambang to runoff from across the Thai border.

“Rainfall and water that flowed down from Thailand caused 757 houses to be flooded in Kamrieng and Bavel districts,” Vy said. “The authorities moved nine families to a place of safety. There were 9,839 hectares of cassava flooded, which might be damaged, and some roads were cut off.”

A teenage girl was also reported to have drowned in Battambang’s Bavel district.

“A 13-year-old girl died this morning when she went to swim under her house when her mother was not at home,” said Sar Sary, chief of Bavel district’s Bavel commune. “Her house flooded until the water came up the stairs.”

Sary went on to say that he was optimistic that farmers’ crops now underwater could be saved.

“We cannot know if their paddies are damaged because the water started to go down little by little. It would be better if the water went down quickly,” he said. “I think if there is no rain for two days, the water will go down quickly.”

In Koh Kong province, 245 houses were damaged and six destroyed completely, while in Kampot province 4,381 families were affected by flooding and 2,291 hectares of rice were submerged.

Three districts and one town were flooded in Preah Sihanouk province, where one home was totally destroyed, 75 houses suffered damage to their roofs and four boats sank.

However, according to Ian Thomas, technical adviser to the Mekong River Commission, the heavy rain is unlikely to signal an end to drought conditions, which have blighted crops in large parts of the country since 2014.

“Cambodia has to be ready for more extreme weather as a result of the El Niño in the Pacific,” he said. “When El Niño peaks around January, I expect even more severe drought in parts of Cambodia than the previous year.

The beginning of next year is going to be very bad for dry-season crops.”

But not every province will be affected.

“It’s not a consistent picture,” Thomas said. “Pursat and Battambang are the driest provinces, but Prey Veng and Svay Rieng are OK.”

Thomas added that the current El Niño, a climate event that occurs roughly every five years, is the strongest NASA has ever seen and the space agency has nicknamed it “Godzilla”.

Extreme weather could soon lead to an increase in the price of rice.

“In the drought of 2014, the price of rice fell because of Thai rice subsidies,” Thomas said. “But the IRRI [International Rice Research Institute] has just issued a warning that drought conditions have been so bad across Asia due to El Niño, the price of rice will go up.”

The current El Nino is expected to end next year, bringing some relief to farmers.

“I am hopeful that in February to March the El Niño will dissipate, but it will take a few months for weather to get back to normal,” Thomas said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMIE ELLIOTT

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