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USD 1 Million's worth

By Natanya de Silva (‘The Cagliero Project’ volunteer)

Sihanoukville, Cambodia, 8 September 2019 -- On the night of Thursday 8th August, 2019, around 10.30 pm, the city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and subsequently, the community of Don Bosco Sihanoukville, was unexpectedly hit with heavy rain and disastrous flash flooding. The Don Bosco Sihanoukville community consists of both a technical school and hotel school with approximately 476 students and 89 staff; a hotel and guesthouse housing up to 160 guests; 5 Salesians, and up to 8 volunteers. The community also has a gelato shop open to the public at the front of grounds, belonging to Don Bosco Hotel to raise additional funds for the school. On the night of the flood, there were approximately 230 residents on the premises (students, Salesians, staff, construction workers and their children, volunteers, and hotel guests).

As the rain grew heavier and showed no sign of ceasing, in combination with the excessive building construction in the area, and a poor drainage and road system, flood water rose and caused the 2m high, 70m long, front wall of the school (which borders the school and separates it from the main road) to collapse, with a section (20m long) breaking away completely and pushed as far as 30 metres inside the school. With nothing to shield the school, water gushed into and through the grounds uncontrollably and at an alarming rate; debris, rubbish, and mud from the road and outside the school was washed into the ground floor of every building on site – the gelato shop was completely destroyed; the school canteen and small ‘mini-mart’ type shops on the grounds, administrative offices, and buildings containing heavy workshop machinery and equipment; the hotel reception, restaurant, offices, and ground floor guestrooms in all its buildings; Brother Sun ground floor guestrooms housing local workers, staff, and volunteers; Salesians’ bedrooms, the community refectory, bathrooms, the church; and even the building being prepared for the kindergarten children (who are currently housed outside). Those buildings nearest to the broken wall were the worst affected. The water reached 1 metre in height and surged through the school like a river, drowning out all other sounds. Workshop machinery and equipment belonging to the Mechanical, Welding, Automotive, and Electrical departments were all damaged, not to mention, furniture, computers, laptops, projectors, and other electronics, across the premises, were ruined, as well as some documents and records stored in offices.

Once the water receded and drained, it left behind a thick layer of mud, up to 5cm thick in some places, coating most surfaces the flood had reached; suffice it to say, the damage and clean-up effort required was huge. The large, polished, wooden floor of the church had a consistent 3cm coating of mud, extending the full length of the church, from the entrance doors to the sacristy located at the back. In the history of Don Bosco Sihanoukville, nothing like this had ever been seen or experienced before.

On the other side of the premises, where the hotel is located, guests were shocked and distressed - many fled without paying for their rooms. Running water and electricity were not available until the third day following the flood, so for remaining hotel guests, this only exacerbated the situation. Cleaning began the next morning, with residents of Don Bosco Sihanoukville waking up to upsetting and tragic scenes, finding it difficult to come to terms with the destruction that lay before them - what the flood had left in its path. It looked like the film set of a disaster movie. Students, staff, volunteers, Salesians, workers - even guests - armed with brooms, mops, buckets, shovels and wheelbarrows, banded together to conquer the huge task ahead of them after such a long night. It took countless buckets of water - water collected from the drains around the school – to remove and wash the mud out from inside buildings and rooms. This went on for days; even weeks; still, there is more to be done. Currently, there are multiple reconstruction and recovery projects underway throughout the school – preventative measures, as well as a slow return to earlier projects whose timelines were disrupted by the flood. Thanks be to God - everyone at Don Bosco Sihanoukville is safe. The substantial cost of damages and loss from the flood is close to US$1 million.

We are ever-grateful for the help and assistance already received, however, there is still a lot to be done. In the spirit of Salesian solidarity, if you would like to reach out and donate, it would be very much appreciated. Please donate through Mission Office Australia. You can also contact Br. Roberto Panetto of the Don Bosco Sihanoukville, Cambodia community; Financial Administrator of Don Bosco Foundation of Cambodia - mobile +855 15 91 98 34, or email




























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  • Drans 2019.09.13 10:08

    Sad yet full of hope for your full recovery from this calamity.

    With my prayers...

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