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Weekend storms take heavy toll

A damaged house in Banteay Meanchey province stands at an angle after it was battered by strong winds
A damaged house in Banteay Meanchey province stands at an angle after it was battered by strong winds over the weekend. Nearly 700 homes were damaged by the weekend’s violent weather. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Weekend storms take heavy toll

A weekend storm surge that saw torrential downpours hit the capital had far more dire consequences outside of Phnom Penh, where hundreds of families were affected and at least one man was killed.

At least 675 homes in eight provinces were damaged in sudden thunderstorms that swept the country, officials said yesterday, with eight people injured during the downpours and heavy winds that first began on Thursday evening.

The one confirmed fatality came when a tile was blown from the roof of a home in Banteay Meanchey province, striking a man on the head. He was pronounced dead at the provincial hospital and is thought to have suffered a heart attack as a result of the impact.

Of the nearly 700 homes damaged, at least 147 were completely destroyed, their roofs ripped to shreds and pillars collapsed. Elsewhere, a school’s roof was blown off, several phone aerials collapsed and a rice mill was destroyed.

While Phnom Penh avoided much of the destruction wrought in other provinces, signs of the strength of the gales were all around, with a large tree on Sihanouk Boulevard left snapped like a twig on Saturday night, forcing drivers to navigate around the natural roadblock.

Keo Vy, National Committee for Disaster Management cabinet chief, said yesterday that the authorities, working closely with police forces and the Cambodian Red Cross, were busy helping to rebuild families’ homes.

He added that the country had gotten off lightly this year, with last year’s dry-season storms wreaking far greater damage.

“We cannot estimate the total storm damage this year yet, whether there are more or less, since it is a natural disaster,” he said.

“But last year, Cambodia was affected by storms from neighbouring countries, plus the monthly rain, which started in the middle of March in Cambodia. So, Cambodia suffered from many storms.”

Comparing the figures with last year’s storms, however, gives some reason for thanks.

In the first three months of last year, storms damaged more than 2,000 homes and destroyed 20 schools, with eight people killed by lightning strikes.

An updated figure for deaths from lightning strikes from last week’s storms was unavailable yesterday.

Local authorities reported earlier last week that three people had died and four others been injured by lightning strikes so far this year.

Ahead of the storm fronts’ arrival, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology warned people to batten down the hatches.

Oum Ryna, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources, said the worst was over, for now.

“It will not rain heavily anymore, not like last week. But it might rain heavily in some places, so people should be careful,” Ryna said.

In Banteay Meanchey province, officials said life was beginning to return to normal.

Chhun Buntha, of Banteay Meanchey provincial hall, said that 31 houses in the province had been completely destroyed, while about 270 had been badly damaged.

“The situation in Banteay Meanchey province right now is better,” he said.

Hundreds die each year in Cambodia from lightning storms, according to government figures.

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