Floodwaters raged through a small stream in Kandal’s Takhmao city on Tuesday as at least seven homes collapsed into the waters and another 70 homes were evacuated.
Houses along Prek Tey stream in Kandal province’s Roka Khpos commune fell into the stream starting Monday evening, as a torrent following several days of unseasonal rains eroded the banks of the waterway. On Tuesday, reporters visited the area and saw houses continuing to collapse into the surging stream.
People could be heard shouting and crying as houses collapsed. “It will fall down, it will fall down,” some yelled. A reporter, standing in one of the houses along the stream, captured video of the next-door house sliding into the river.
Houses — a mix of wooden and concrete structures with metal sheeting — could be seen dangling along the banks, with the waters continuing to wash away the earth.
Residents whose houses were still on the banks of the stream were rushing to remove their belongings and constructing makeshift tents along the road. Around 200 soldiers and members of the prime minister’s Bodyguard Unit had just arrived Monday morning to help with the evacuations.
Nov Peng Chandara, spokesperson for the Kandal Provincial Hall, confirmed there were seven homes that had collapsed into the river, and another 70 were teetering precariously on the banks and would have to be dismantled.
He added that by Tuesday evening, 1,000 security forces were present in the community to assist residents with evacuations and removal of houses.
Yen Ban, who is a motorcycle taxi driver and has lived along the stream for 10 years, said his house slid into the stream at 5 a.m. Tuesday. The house was 7 by 8 meters and cost $10,000 to build, he said.
Hearing the roaring of the waters and strong flows, he preemptively removed his belongings from the house.
“I couldn’t sleep. I just stood and watched the house break down. I didn’t know what to do,” Ban said.
He was now living in one of the tents along the road and was worried what he would do for housing because the land along the stream was the only property he owned. Ban added that residents heard that the water’s were surging because an upstream dam was opened.
There has been severe flooding nearby in Prek Tnaut — a perennial flood zone along the border of Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces. Around 1,000 families living along the river have been affected by heavy rainfall upstream late last week.
Water Resources Ministry official Mao Hak only said that the flooding in Prek Tnaut had caused the banks of Prek Tey to collapse, an explanation echoed by Kandal provincial spokesman Peng Chandara.
Mek Moeun, another resident in the area, suspected her house might fall into the stream and started removing some of her belongings. She was informed by officials Tuesday morning that she could not return to her house because it was too dangerous.
“My house has not fallen down but the authorities told me to dismantle it to avoid accidents,” she said, adding that she had yet to pay off a loan she took to build the house.
She had been living in the area since 1993 and said this was the first time she had seen the waters gushing along the stream. She had heard that the deepening of the river bed upstream had caused increased flows of water through the stream.
“I never saw a landslide like this before. It was such a strong collapse,” she said.
River bank collapses have occurred along Cambodia’s waterways, especially the Mekong River. Environmentalists say large-scale sand dredging in the river is in part responsible for the frequent collapse of the bank.
This article was corrected on January 18 to say the flooding took place in Kandal’s Takhmao city.