Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Toll rises as floods continue

Toll rises as floods continue

Toll rises as floods continue

toll.jpg
toll.jpg

A child paddles back to his house from National Road 1 in Lek Dek district, 50 kilometers south-east of Phnom Penh. Elsewhere in Cambodia, floods have claimed the lives of at least 46 people.

AS the number of confirmed deaths due to flooding reached 46, the National Committee

for Disaster Management (NCDM) said that it expected another three weeks of heavy

rain.

NCDM vice president, Nhim Vanda, told the Post that the extra rain would combine

with already full, slow flowing rivers to produce further flooding.

"Around this time of the year it usually rains almost everyday," he said.

"We are worried about rising floodwaters since the Tonle Sap and other rivers

are already full."

Figures to August 30 show at least 46 people, mostly children, confirmed dead, while

several others are missing. Worst hit was Kampong Cham, where 23 people have died

so far. Twelve drowned in Prey Veng, four in Kratie, two each in Kandal, Svay Rieng

and Phnom Penh, and one in Takeo. Three more people are believed drowned in Prey

Veng.

The NCDM said that the floods have affected 560,000 people; of these 150,000 have

been forced to leave their homes. Victims urgently needed 2,000 tons of rice and

200,000 plastic sheets for shelter.

"According to Prime Minister Hun Sen's instructions, we must not allow anyone

who flees to a safe place to die from starvation - we must supply them on time,"

said Vanda.

However, that could be difficult - Vanda conceded that the NCDM's emergency rice

supplies were insufficient for the task.

Towns on the upper reaches of the Mekong, such as Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong

Cham, have experienced the worst flooding, causing difficulties for small businesses.

Hun Bun Leng, a coffee vendor in Kampong Cham, said she was worried that the floods

might not recede soon.

"We are living from hand to mouth already," she said. "If the flood

remains, we will have only more difficulties." She said that water quality in

the town had already deteriorated as sewage flowed into flooded streets. She voiced

concern that the water could cause her concrete house to collapse.

Government officials acknowledged that water levels are still rising. In Stung Treng

the level on August 30 increased another 10 cm to just over 11 meters.

Mao Hak, deputy director of the hydrology and river works department at the Meteorology

and Water Resources Ministry, said that levels would probably rise over the next

few days, but said it was impossible to predict the situation in another month.

Yon Chetana, director at the Department of Meteorology and water resources in Ratanakiri

province, told the Post that his area had received heavy rain since the third week

of August. Both rivers in the areas were in flood: the volume of water flowing into

the Mekong from the Se San river alone, he said, was currently 7,000 cubic meters

per second.

"Now we are in the middle of heavy rain in Ratanakiri. It is threatening to

flood and will do so if it keeps raining in September. That would threaten areas

downstream," he said.

NCDM's Vanda said five out of 10 provinces flanking the Mekong are badly affected.

Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham towns have been flooded for two weeks.

He said that his committee provides assistance to local areas, educating people on

the dangers of flooding.

"People who live along rivers or flood areas must know how to swim and they

must know about the level of water in their areas," he said.

In the Lavea Em district of Kandal province a weekly medical service delivered to

villages along the Mekong by Asian Outreach Cambodia's Boat of Hope teams is needed

more than ever. Patients have been canoeing or wading to makeshift clinics on high

ground as regular clinics go under water.

Alta Glas, coordinator, said that flooding brought a higher risk of disease and fever,

particularly to children. Many people were forced to drink unclean water as they

had no means to purify it.

AOC deputy director John Wilding said the NGO was planning to raise more overseas

aid for rice distribution. Last year the Boat of Hope delivered hundreds of tons

of rice to hungry villagers.

Last year's floods killed 347 people and caused $161 million damage, according the

2000 disaster report. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent

Societies said that those floods killed 800 people, affected almost nine million

people and caused damage estimated at more than $455 million across the entire Mekong

region.

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