The Heat Is Online

Cambodian Crops Ravaged By Worst Flooding in 40 Years

Cambodia issues emergency flood relief plea

Reuters News Service, July 27, 2000

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia yesterday launched an emergency appeal for help to deal with severe flooding wreaking havoc across much of the country.
Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) President Bun Rany, wife of the country's Prime Minister Hun Sen, asked local and international groups to help respond to the urgent needs of hundreds of thousands of people in flooded areas.

"We are most worried about the unusual flooding in July in several provinces. I appeal to NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and humanitarian organisations inside and outside Cambodia to help us respond to those in need," she said.

Bun Rany, who was speaking at a ceremony to launch the Red Cross World Disasters Report 2000, did not specify how much or what kind of assistance Cambodia needed.

Heavy rains have pushed water levels in the Mekong River, which runs the length of eastern Cambodia, to their highest recorded levels in 40 years.

Flooding has caused at least 10 deaths, left thousands homeless and destroyed or damaged thousands of hectares (acres) of crops.

According to Red Cross figures nearly 630,000 people live in the flooded areas, which cover nine of Cambodia's 24 provinces, while more than 19,000 hectares (48,000 acres) of rice and other crops have been destroyed or damaged.

Cambodia normally experiences wide-spread floods during the rainy season between June and early November, but officials say they are concerned both by the magnitude and the early arrival of this year's innundation.

"We worry that in August the level of water will get higher," Bun Rany said. "If the waters keep rising, it will be very difficult to provide sanitised water." Bun Rany said the CRC only had limited emergency supplies. "We have a small stock in our warehouse. It is not enough for those in need," she said.

But a senior agriculture official said yesterday this season's rice production will not suffer extensive damage because of the flooding.

"The floods are irregular this year, but they will not seriously damage rice production," vice chairman of a state agriculture and development committee, Tao Seng Hour, said during a report to the government.

Tao Seng Hour said water levels in major rivers had fallen in recent days and the government has some 3,200 tonnes of rice seed in reserve for farmers.

Cambodia's total rice production in the 1999/00 crop year was 4.04 million tonnes of paddy, compared with 3.8 million tonnes the previous year.

Provinces in neighbouring Vietnam's rice bowl Mekong Delta are also struggling with the worst flooding in years.