Floods Take Heavy Toll

The number of deaths and evacuees in Southeast Asia continues to climb.
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A Cambodian woman (L) carries her baby as she walks through floodwaters in Kandal province, east of Phnom Penh, Oct. 10, 2011.
A Cambodian woman (L) carries her baby as she walks through floodwaters in Kandal province, east of Phnom Penh, Oct. 10, 2011.

The death toll in the decade's biggest floods in Southeast Asia is soaring with international aid agencies reporting more than 500 killed and 1 million people left homeless.

"Death tolls are still rising across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand," Care International said in a statement, warning that areas in this region face high tides this weekend which will further restrict aid from reaching those already in dire need of assistance.


Among the worst affected is Cambodia, with the death toll nearing 250, about half of them children.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday canceled the nation's annual water festival scheduled in the capital Phnom Penh on Nov. 9-11, saying the funds for the popular event would be better spent aiding the flood-hit families.

The festival marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and draws about 2 million visitors.

Last year's festival ended in tragedy when more than 350 people were killed in a stampede on a packed and narrow bridge.

Key boat races as part of the festival will be postponed, said Hun Neng, the governor of Kampong Cham province and brother of the prime minister.

He said the floods, the deadliest since 2000, were causing "big trouble" amid reports that 17 of Cambodia’s 23 provinces have been classified as "emergency" areas.

More than 30,000 families have been left homeless since the floods hit the country in August while 390,000 hectares (960,000 acres) of rice paddies have been damaged, government figures showed.

CARE said it believed that 13 percent of Cambodia's rice harvest is at risk of destruction which will cause significant impact on future food security.

CARE Country Director in Cambodia, Stav Zotalis, said household food stocks have been destroyed by the rapid rise of flood waters and evacuees were not able to take sufficient food with them.

"CARE’s priority now is to distribute food and non-food items such as mosquito nets, hygiene kits and water filters for clean water storage," she said.


In neighboring Thailand, floods have wreaked havoc in the northern and central parts of the country as the death toll neared 290.

Some 8.2 million people in 61 of Thailand's 77 provinces have been affected by the flooding, the worst in half a century, reports said.

Residents in the Thai capital Bangkok braced for possible weekend flooding as the runoff from high water that devastated parts of central Thailand flowed toward the low-lying metropolis, where many downtown buildings were fortified with walls of sandbags, Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Friday that the situation was under control.

"The water level is stable and not increasing. So I would like to ask people not to panic," Agence France-Presse quoted her as telling reporters.

The floods have dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's economy, leaving hundreds of factories under water.

Japanese automakers including Toyota have suspended production in the kingdom due to water damage to facilities or disruption to parts supplies.


In Vietnam, 43 deaths have been reported, 31 of which are children, from flooding in the Mekong Delta.

CARE said it has received unconfirmed reports that more than 230,000 people have been affected with more than 6,500 hectares (16,061 acres) of rice fields destroyed in the flooding.

Vietnam is the world's number two rice exporter and the flooded Mekong Delta region accounts for half the country's rice production.

The government said Thursday that the seasonal floods have submerged nearly 70,000 homes. The waters have damaged an estimated U.S. $55 million in crops and infrastructure in the south since late August.


In Laos, almost 500,000 people have been hit by flooding and landslides which have damaged over 64,000 hectares (158,147 acres) of farmland, 323 roads and 42 bridges, according to ReliefWeb, a global online information center on humanitarian emergencies and disasters.

It said that in the Philippines, more than 4 million people have been affected by floods with at least 250,000 needing assistance.

United Nations agencies are on standby to deliver aid in the region, where more than 8 million people are affected by flooding and typhoons, ReliefWeb said.

Reported by Radio Free Asia's Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese services. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.





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