The Floods

12 10 2011

Since mentioning the flooding in Siem Reap in the post about or site visit, the flooding in Siem Reap (and much of Southeast Asia) has gotten worse. Siem Reap town has been flooded three times, forcing Peace Corps to evacuate its volunteers there. On our way to site from Phnom Penh, the Tonle Sap appeared even more swollen than during our previous trip. Houses that had before been islands in the water were now up to their windows and roofs. At site, things have been pretty quiet – despite the swollen rivers, the town has not flooded since we’ve been here. Teachers at my school told me a day or two after our site visit, the national highway was flooded over, temporarily closing the route between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Since arriving here, the monsoon rains have generally followed their usual pattern: clouds rolling in at two or three in the afternoon with no more than a couple hours worth of rain. Last night and this morning have been an exception to that usually predictable rule. It stormed all night with harder than usual rains, and it continues to rain off and on this morning. With all this additional rain, I can only assume that the flooding in Siem Reap town will get even worse.

Thus far the floods have killed 207 people and caused an estimated $100 million in damages in Cambodia alone. Today the government lowered its forecast of GDP growth from 7 % to 6%, citing the agricultural damage done by the flooding. Although the international news has been reporting on some of the flooding (primarily in Thailand), it seems like most of it is being overlooked. The Prime Minister of Cambodia has not yet asked for international support, but is being pressured to do so by lawmakers and NGOs in-country. It is unclear exactly what the government will do but many NGOs are already working in the flood-affected areas.

-Tim

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