Scores die in worst Mekong flooding since 2000

Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:33am EDT
 

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - At least 150 people in Cambodia and southern Vietnam have died in the worst flooding along the Mekong River in 11 years after heavy rain swamped homes, washed away bridges and forced thousands of people to evacuate.

Worse could be in store if Typhoon Nesat, which killed at least 39 people in China this week and plowed into northern Vietnam on Friday, dumps rain deep enough inland to further swell the Mekong.

Flooding across the fertile Mekong Delta helped drive rice prices to a three-year high in Vietnam this week, traders said, which will add to inflation problems. The delta produces more than half of Vietnam's rice and 90 percent of its exportable grain.

In Cambodia, 141 people have died since August 13 due to Mekong flooding and flash floods, the Cambodian National Disaster Management Committee said.

"Now, more than 200,000 hectares (494,200 acres) of our rice paddies are under water but we don't yet know the full extent of the damage," said Keo Vy, deputy information director at the National Disaster Management Committee.

Cambodia is a minor rice exporter, but Vietnam is the world's second-biggest exporter behind Thailand.

In 2000, the worst flooding in decades killed more than 480 people across the Delta region. The following year, more than 300 people died when the Mekong, which flows 4,350 km (2,700 miles) from the glaciers of Tibet to the rice-rich Delta of southern Vietnam, overflowed its banks.

Some 150,000 families had been affected by the flooding in Cambodia this year and another 15,000 evacuated to higher ground, said Men Neary Sopheak, deputy secretary general of Cambodia's Red Cross.   Continued...