Cambodian Journalists Alliance

For those stuck at home, floodwaters bring fear, financial stress

Dangkor district residents head home on a motorboat accompanied by rescue officials on October 20. Panha Chhorpoan
Dangkor district residents head home on a motorboat accompanied by rescue officials on October 20. Panha Chhorpoan
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Despite her fears that the floodwater in her home would rise while her family was sleeping at night, 50-year-old In Chanthy said she has nowhere else to go.

Hanging up laundry while standing ankle-deep in murky brown water, she said her home at Borey VIP 1 in Spean Thmor commune has been flooded for a week. She can only access it by motorboat accompanied by rescue officials, leaving from Prek Chrey market nearly 1 kilometer away on Street 217.

“Every night when I go to sleep I am scared of the flood and I get up many times in the night to see if the water is rising or receding,” she said.

In the afternoon of October 14 when she went to work the night shift at a factory on Veng Sreng Boulevard, her husband had kept her updated on the rising water level in their neighborhood.

“While I was at work, my husband called me a few times each hour to update me about the water rising in our neighborhood,” Chanthy recalled.

She said she finally got a call shortly after dusk saying their house was knee-deep in water. She headed home but was stopped by the flood around Prek Chrey market. A crowd had gathered to observe the flood while rescue officials ferried stranded residents out of their homes via motorboat.

Dangkor district resident In Chanthy speaks outside her flooded home in Borey VIP 1 on October 20. Panha Chhorpoan

“At that time, I asked the authorities to ride a motorboat to my house,” Chanthy said.

By the time she got there, her husband and son had already moved their important belongings to the first story, but she said many of her neighbors’ items were damaged because they weren’t home when the water started to rise.

“Before the flooding, this Borey was about 60 percent full, but now that it’s flooded, only a few families including mine have stayed in our houses because the rental house fees are expensive,” Chanthy said.

Chanthy said she and her husband had bought their flat in 2017 for $16,500. Since the flooding started, residents have not been sure who to turn to for help.

“I never received flood donations from the authorities because they could not get to my house,” Chantha said. “However, I received a 50-kilogram bag of rice, canned fish, and packaged noodles from the Borey owner.”

In Phnom Penh, five communes in Dangkor district have been severely affected by the flood, with Prime Minister Hun Sen visiting the area on October 15 to meet with evacuated families.

Pong Savrith, deputy commander of the Phnom Penh Military Police, who is monitoring forces near Prek Chrey market, said that since October 14 the rescue team made up of military police, police and government officials had been focused on rescuing the flood victims.

“We covered the flooding situation quickly and our government officials went down to provide donations to all victims in the areas where it is flooded,” Savrith said, adding that officials were still monitoring the area.

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng declined to comment on October 21 and referred questions to City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey, who could not be reached.

Flash floods have also caused dams to breach in Kampong Speu, Kirirom and Stung Prek Thnot in Takmao.

Flooding in Phnom Penh this year has been the worst since 2016, Measpheakdey said last week, explaining that Phnom Penh had received 190mm of rainfall this week, compared to a normal rainy season average of 105mm.

Municipal authorities have tried to mitigate the effects of the flood by pumping water out of Boeung Toumpun and Boeng Choeng Ek, two lakes that are crucial rainwater storage points in the city.

Dangkor District Governor Kim Nheb also could not be reached.

According to an October 21 statement from the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), more than 11,000 families nationwide have been evacuated due to the floods. 

“More than 11,529 families, equal to about 46,116 people, were evacuated to safety on higher ground,” it said.

The statement said that 36 people had died, while more than 100,000 houses and 707 schools have been affected by the floodwaters across 19 provinces.

In terms of agriculture, more than 230,000 hectares of rice paddy and 80,000 hectares of combined crops were ruined by the floods, which have been particularly affecting in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pailin, Phnom Penh and Pursat, according to the NCDM. A combined total of more than 2,000 kilometers of provincial and national roads have also been damaged, it said.

Khun Sokha, spokesman for the NCDM, said that October 21 that officials are monitoring the forecast, and are paying close attention to the situation to see if the floodwaters will continue to rise or will subside.

“According to the forecast of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, the rains will continue to fall until the end of this month,” he said.

He said that all citizens should check the rain forecasts issued by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology so that they can move to higher ground if necessary.

When asked about the claims by some Dangkor residents that they had not received donations from authorities, he said that government officials had offered donations to all victims and had made it a priority to help everyone in need. 

“We are doing this activity. It is not only for the people who have been evacuated to higher ground,” he said. “We are deployed in all areas and we are providing [donations] to them.”

As of October 15, donations for flood victims had reached $6 million, Hun Sen said in a speech, noting that $800,000 had been used at that time.

Leak Pros, 39, another VIP Borey resident, said he and his family also chose not to leave during the flood. While walking with his wife and two young children from a motorboat to his home on October 20, he said that he had moved his family’s valuable items to the first floor or their home, and had transported some by boat to a safe place outside of the flood zone.

“On October 14, I sent my wife and two children to dry land while it was flooding,” he said. “When the water receded a little, they returned to live in the flat after two days.”

“Today, my family and I are moving again because after it rained last night the water rose a little, so I am concerned about flooding again.”

He said that the flood had also prevented him from going to work as a welder at a metal shop.

“It affected my work because I can’t make a daily income to support my family,” Pros said, adding that authorities had been helpful in providing him with small donations of rice.

On Vutha, 36, who lives in Anchanh village in Spean Thmor commune, said he had to send his children to safety on the night of October 14.

“When it was flooding, I sent my three children by the authority’s motorboat to stay with my parents in another village where there was no flooding,” Vutha said. “I was concerned about my children because the water rose fast.”

While bailing water out from a store in Spean Thmor commune with two staff members, Chan Reaksmey, 30, said she had talked to her older sister into opening Samnang Laor Mart with her six months ago, never expecting that their neighborhood would become inundated. 

“About half the goods in my mart were damaged, worth about $2,000 to $3,000,” Reaksmey said. “If we had any warning, we could have found a way to prevent it.”  

“At around 9pm on October 14, I asked the joint forces in Dangkor district for help, but it was 3am before they arrived at my mart. I think that if the water had continued to rise, my mart and my family members could not have been helped,” she continued.

Another village resident, Chhuoy Chroch, 50, who was setting up fishing nets in a flooded fieldin front of Prek Chrey market, said he would struggle to make his rental payment this month on his home by the market, which doubled as a gas refill shop. 

“The flooding has caused me to lose income of between 20,000 riel and 40,000 riel per day, and I do not know yet when the water will recede,” Chroch said. “I will not have enough money to pay the landlord.”

VIP 1 Borey resident Chanthy appealed to the government to bring donations to the people who have stayed in their homes even as their neighborhoods have been underwater.

“I just ask the authorities, please provide donations to the people who are staying in the flooding because we do not have any place to stay on dry ground,” Chanthy said.

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