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Fast Relief Urged for Families in Flooding

A man pulls a giant jar in flood waters on a street in Kandal province September 30, 2011. Some 141 people have died in Cambodia since Aug. 13 in the worst flooding along the Mekong River in 11 years after heavy rain swamped homes, washed away bridges and

The relief organization Oxfam America on Tuesday called for increased efforts to help tens of thousands of families cope with severe flooding across the country.

The US-based group said displaced people need food deliveries, clean water, sanitation supplies and shelters, as the death toll from floods in August rose to 164 people and nearly 21,000 people have been displaced.

Flooding has affected some 215,000 families across 17 provinces, inundating 900 schools, 420 pagodas, 75 health centers and nearly 300,000 hectares of rice crop, said Keo Vy, cabinet chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Oxfam America said in a statement that government and relief agency responses are under way, but more assistance is necessary.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government was allocating $55 million and 1.7 million tons of rice to relief efforts.

Francis Perez, who lead’s Oxfam’s humanitarian efforts in Cambodia, said these relief supplies and others need released “immediately.”

Oxfam teams are working side-by-side with the government and other agencies in Kampong Thom, the hardest-hit province, distributing hygiene kits of water filters, hand soap and other goods to abut 300 families in Kampong Svay district. Oxfam said it expects to reach 1,000 families by the end of the week.

And while floodwaters have abated recently, there is concern that more rain could come with a tropical storm currently headed towards central Vietnam or southern China.

Meanwhile, National Election Committee officials said Tuesday that flooding in 300 different communes had prevented new voters to register for the 2012 commune council elections. NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said the committee would now have to determine whether to extend the registration deadline in those areas beyond Oct. 15.