HomeNewsFlooding brings trouble to Phnom Penh locals

Flooding brings trouble to Phnom Penh locals

Already enduring COVID-19 wrought economic crisis, locals now dealing with floods in Cambodian capital

A wide road in Por Senchey, a district in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, is flooded with water. As people walked the brown water reached up to their knees other locals sat in a boat moving from one side of the street to the other. Others used a tractor as transport instead of their usual motorbikes and tuk-tuks.

On foot, Pat Reaksa, 41, was on her way back home from the market. She muddled through the water that was dirty and stinky because of trash floating in it. Reaksa said part of her home was flooded five days earlier but she still lives there with her family, including her 4-year-old daughter.

“The ground floor is covered by the flood. We shut down all of our devices at the ground floor, because it’s dangerous to use with all the water. We’re worried about electric shocks,” she said.

Cambodia has been subjected to heavy rains and floods since early October; so far killing at least 25 people while affecting over 240,000, according to local media. In Phnom Penh several districts have been hit, including Po Senchey, Meanchey, Sen Sok and Dangkor. Water levels on the Tonlé Sap, Bassac and Mekong rivers have risen significantly a well.

Reaksa said that such severe flooding in her street was unusual. When the water came early last week, there wasn’t much she could do. She brought her kid upstairs and waited for her husband — a construction worker — to come home. “We have some damage. Our furniture downstairs for example was too heavy for me to move it out of the water,” she said.

Nearby Kruy Davy, a 28-year-old mother of two children, had to abandon her house entirely and is now staying with her older brother.

The water in her house rose to half a meter, Davy told LiCAS.news. “The water is black and it’s so smelly. I’m worried about the diseases that come with the floods,” she said. “My daughter is three years old, my son is four. I’m worried they’ll get dengue fever or skin diseases.”

Evacuated residents in Dangkor district, Phnom Penh make their way to relocate to a pagoda on Oct. 15. (Photo by Ate Hoekstra)
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Others in Por Senchey are being affected by the floods in different ways.

A hairdressing shop run by 34-year-old Al Sangha is now accessible only for those who don’t mind walking through kneel-deep water.

“Normally I have between 30 and 40 customers per day,” he said while sitting on his sofa overseeing the flooding road. “But in the last few days I’ve had only a few customers. If this flooding doesn’t go away soon, we’ll be in serious financial trouble.”

Providing aid

Aid agencies and the government have been providing aid to those affected by flooding in the country. The church’s social arm in the country, Caritas Cambodia, is currently assessing how they can assist — over the long term — those affected by the floods.

“Many organizations are already providing emergency aid, so we can do different things,” said Houn Kosal, a Caritas project coordinator in Battambang. ”We’re now mapping the disaster-area and collecting information about the damage. If victims don’t get any help yet we will give it,” he said.

In Phnom Penh’s southern Dangkor district authorities needed to evacuate people to higher land. That included 40-year-old Mao Chhorn and his family. Chhorn told LiCAS.news over the phone that the water in his house was one meter high when he left.

“It flooded last Tuesday. I only managed to get some of the household products to safety. Other stuff I had to leave in the water. It will be damaged for sure,” he said.

Flooding in Phnom Penh Por’s Senchey district on Oct. 17. (Photo by Ate Hoekstra)

Chhorn, a taxi driver, said that one hectare of his rice field has been damaged by flooding. “And fruits and vegetables that me and my family grow have been destroyed,” he said.

Together with many of his neighbors Chhorn now stays at a Buddhist temple built on higher ground. He said it’s very crowded and it’s hard to find a private space for his family or to find a proper bathroom.

“Some children are now starting to get sick, with some of them having high fever,” he said worryingly. “And we can’t go anywhere, because the floods are covering all the roads. We can’t drive our bike to buy food, we can’t go to the hospital go get treatment.”

His family did receive aid in the past week, Chhorn said. A delegation of the Red Cross came to meet him and other victims. They also received private donations, mainly food as rice, noodles and fish sauce.

Back in Por Senchey Kruy, Davy still finds it hard to believe what has occurred. She only bought her house four years ago. For her and many others these floods were unexpected.

“I don’t know when the water will be gone, but I know for sure that the tiles on my ground floor will be destroyed and my fridge, laundry machine and furniture will be damaged,” she said. “It’s all going to cost money, while we are already in an economic crisis. And I know that my family won’t get any aid. We have to do everything by ourselves.”

*Additional reporting by Ate Hoekstra.

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