One child is missing in Kandal province after he and three of his mates slipped and plunged into the Mekong river as they were playing nearby a recently-collapsed portion of the riverbank.
A 50-metre portion of the riverbank in Mok Kampol district collapsed yesterday, causing damage to a pagoda’s fence, a home and a stupa.
Yearn Sath, chief of the district penal department, yesterday said four boys under the age of 18 slipped and plunged into the river while they were playing nearby the collapsed riverbank.
Rescuers managed to fetch three of the boys out of the river, but 14-year-old Kun Kimheng remains missing.
“Police begged people not to stand near the collapsed riverbank because it is dangerous,” Mr Sath said. “Unluckily, the boys fell into the river. Three of them were rescued, but one is still missing. Police are looking for him”
Thim Bunthol, a school teacher in Roka Rong commune, yesterday said Kimheng and his mates went to see the collapsed portion of the riverbank during a study break.
“People are scared to go near the area because they saw the collapsed portion of the riverbank,” Mr Bunthol said. “The family of Kimheng has hired local fishermen to help look for him, but they are also scared.”
Men Sum, chief of Roka Kong commune, said the collapse happened at night after water in the river along his commune reached eight metres.
“Local authorities concluded that it was because of natural disaster,” he said. “Riverbank collapse occur almost every year here along Mok Kampol district.”
“Sometimes it happens here in this commune, sometimes it happens elsewhere in other communes,” Mr Sum added.
He noted that villagers living along the river are worried about the frequency of the disaster, prompting some to vacate their homes.
“The collapse damaged a pagoda’s fences and a stupa fell into the river at night,” Mr Sum said. “Villagers are worried that more will collapse in this area – but there are no big houses built along the river, just huts.”
He said that in order to keep villagers calm, they were told to stay away from the riverbank.
“We told villagers not to walk along the river, or allow their children to play along the river because the bank could still collapse,” Mr Sum said.
Houn Sam Ath, an official with the district information department, yesterday said villagers were told to put their own safety first.
“We told villagers to move away from riverbanks and seek another place temporarily in order to be safe,” Mr Sam Ath said. “We told them to move their properties away from riverbanks and we told them to not to erect other buildings because the area is prone to collapsing.”
Sur Srey Neang, a villager in the commune, said they need authorities to find a way to reduce collapses.
“After the morning, villagers gathered to see how much damage was caused,” Ms Srey Neang said. “We saw damage to a pagoda’s fence and a stupa that fell into the river. We are hoping officials can find a way to reduce the collapse.”
On December 5, a 100-metre portion of the riverbank in Mok Kampol district’s Russey Chroy commune collapsed. No one was injured.
Officials from the Mines and Energy Ministry and Kandal provincial authorities met a week after the collapse to discuss action to prevent more riverbank collapses in Mok Kampol district following appeals from local residents.
They identified three main causes of riverbank collapses in the district’s Russey Chroy and Roka Kong communes.
In a statement, the ministry said the river depth at the west bank of Russey Chroy commune varies between eight meters and 30 meters, and the east bank is shallow and sandy.
This unevenness in depth causes the west bank to become imbalanced when high tides hit the shore, it noted.
The ministry also found that riverbank collapses occur when water from floods sink into the land and flow back into the river under the ground, causing the soil to become unstable.
In addition, the ministry temporarily suspended sand dredging in the area and put up signboards to mark where dredging can be done.
It also stationed two ministry officials, along with local officials, to monitor the boundaries.