Flooded Cambodia

Thailand’s floods have dominated the international headlines in recent days. Cambodia, its next door neighbour, has not fared any better in the current rainy season. The country is now experiencing the worst floods in a decade. 247 people have died over the last 2 months. Over 100,000 people are still displaced. 16% of the country’s rice crop has been destroyed.

Cambodia's flooded paddy fields. Courtesy of abc.net.au

In Phnom Penh where I live, the main rivers are looking dangerously high. They’ve threatened to spill into the city for a number of weeks. In the province, things are much worse. I’ve just come from Pursat. The floods have destroyed rice and vegetables. Bridges and roads are destroyed. And though houses are built high up on stilts in anticipation of these annual floods, the water has reached levels that have forced evacuations.

It’s not until I saw such flooding that I realise the havoc it creates. It’s impossible to move around. Our car could only go through water so high. We didn’t have a boat. And trudging through knee high water was ill advised given the dubious cleanliness and potential sewerage.

Petrol station sand bagged in, Kampong Chhnang town

Having said this, most are making the best of a bad situation. Pursat River is overflowing into canals, and with the overflow comes fish. I saw hundreds of people out with their nets, hauling in abundant catches that had landed in their flooded paddy fields. Some farming areas have not flooded. Farmers in those areas are happy with the rains that have come and averted a drought that was feared back in August. And though my day was busy dealing with the repercussions of the flood, it was refreshing to run in the morning drizzle that has dampened the usual Cambodian heat.

Perplexed policeman up to his knees, directing traffice through Kampong Chhnang town.

Water levels are yet to subside. In the meantime, Prime Minster Hun Sen has taken the wise step of cancelling the annual water festival scheduled for early November. The funds instead will be used to assist families to recover after the floods.

Video clip courtesy of Reuters

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