Day-long heavy rain on Sunday caused unprecedented flash floods which wreaked havoc in the capital.
Roads were flooded with traffic coming to a standstill in some areas, people were forced to flee their homes and uncollected garbage was dispersed in parts of the city by the water.
The scale of the flooding has raised eyebrows with some residents blaming the authorities for reclaiming land by filling up important lakes which acted as flood conduits for Phnom Penh.
Lay Sreymeth, a resident of Chak Angre Krom commune, said her area has been badly affected by flooding for years causing many problems for the residents.
“Sometimes people need to cross the dirty water up to waist level. This was caused by the authorities in Phnom Penh filling up an important lake,” she said.
Pich Chara, a resident of the capital’s Stung Meanchey commune, also mentioned that flooding had worsened because officials let a company fill up a lake for the construction of a modern building.
The development of lakes is a common occurrence linked to flooding, which has affected businesses which have lost a large number of customers, Chara added. “Heavy rain has affected our business so much and we cannot sell anything due to our flooded houses. We are very worried.”
Nhep Srey Hun, a resident of Por Senchey commune, said no matter how much or how little rain falls, it always floods in her commune. “When it rains heavily our house completely floods, in the bedroom, living room, kitchen and parking spaces.”
Srey Hun added that the authorities are not solving the problem, and she is very worried about safety, especially that of her children.
“We cannot go to work as we are concerned about the safety of our children. We are afraid they will drown or be electrocuted because the floodwaters are nearly reaching the power lines,” she said.
A motorist, who only wished to be known as Rainsy, said that riding a motorcycle through flooded areas can affect the engine and also cause skin problems.
“I have to ride my motorcycle through floods along National Road 4, which always makes me late for work. I really hope the authorities will find a solution,” he said.
Chak Angre Loeu commune resident Chan Thavy said that day-long heavy rains have flooded her house repeatedly, with water coming up to nearly her waist.
“People living here have to walk through water to get anywhere. It is difficult for us,” she added.
Thavy said that the flooding in Phnom Penh could be caused by the loss of or filling in of natural flood conduits around the city by investment companies, which do not take into account the adverse effect this has on water flow in the city.
“Flooding in the villages and communities where we live happens every year but they are getting worse. This year the floods seem to be more severe, having a huge impact on our lives and travel. You have to wade through the water, it causes rashes and is unhygienic,” Thavy added.
Kambol commune resident, who only identified herself as Thavry, said that this year’s storms have put him and his children in danger. He is very worried about flooding and the danger of electrocution as the water rises towards power line sockets and wires.
“We are very worried about the safety of our children when it rains like this, we cannot leave our children to go to work. We have to stay home and find ways to prevent water from entering the house”, she said.
However, a Water Resource Ministry official Mao Bunthoeun said that flooding is not caused by the filling in of lakes, but instead sub-standard drainage systems as well as climate change.
“The heavy flooding in Phnom Penh yesterday was not caused by the clearing of the lake, but by higher rainfall than last year, which saw water levels rise by up to a metre,” he said.
“The current drainage systems cannot cope which such rapid swells of water,” he said.
Meanchey district governor Pech Keo Mony said that heavy rains yesterday almost caused two communes in the district, namely Boeng Tompun and Boeng Trabek, to declare an emergency.
However, due to timely intervention from Phnom Penh City Hall, which deployed water pumping machines to clear flooded areas from the communes Sunday, water levels have receded.
Kep Mony added that this is the first time that Phnom Penh has seen floods cause such an impact, which he said was caused by unusually high rainfall.