10 dead after drinking contaminated water in Cambodian village

PHNOM PENH (XINHUA) - The death toll from drinking contaminated water in eastern Cambodia's Kratie province has risen to 10, as 121 others were hospitalised, Om Phy, deputy police chief of Kratie province, said Sunday (May 6).

"Four more victims were confirmed dead at the Kratie Provincial Hospital and the Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital today, bringing the number of the dead to 10, as the number of villagers hospitalised has reached 121," he told Xinhua, adding that the dead were four men and six women.

Villagers in Sre Non village, the tiny indigenous people's village in Chitborey district, have fallen ill and died subsequently since Thursday after they reportedly drank contaminated water from a canal in the village.

Om Phy said the village is home to about 50 families and it was suspected that the water was contaminated with insecticides that farmers used on their crops planted along the canal.

"It's just the start of rainy season, and there is rain these days. I suspect the rainwater washed insecticide out from the farms into the canal," he said.

He said that to prevent more cases, local authorities and health officials on Sunday morning warned the villagers of the dangers of contaminated water and distributed clean water and food to them.

Chheang Sovutha, director of the Kratie Provincial Health Department, said Sunday that to date, all of the victims remained in the hospitals.

"We primarily suspect that farmers used insecticides to kill weeds in their farms, and when there was rain, the rainwater washed the insecticides into the canal," Sovutha told Xinhua. "It is not an epidemic like cholera or typhoid."

According to Sovutha, the victims had the same symptoms such as breathing difficulty, fatigue, sore throat, dizziness, vomiting, and stomachache.

He said a sample of the water in the canal had been sent to a health laboratory in Phnom Penh for checks, and the result was not yet available.

"To prevent more cases, we have only one measure: educating the villagers to stop using water in the canal, providing them with clean water, and finding another source of water for them," he said.