>Rower missing as annual Cambodian Water Festival begins

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Boat rowers prepare for a race on the first day of the annual water festival on the Mekong river in Phnom Penh November 11, 2008. About 29,000 oarsmen in more than 420 boats will compete in boat races during the three-day festival from November 11 to 13.

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Phnom Penh – Cambodia’s annual Water Festival, or Bon Um Tuk, began in the capital Phnom Penh on Tuesday amid fears for a boat racer who went missing the previous day during training session for the traditional regatta.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper reported 38-year-old Sin Sang from Pursat province in the country’s west fell from his team’s race boat 50 metres from the shore of Tonle Sap river on Monday.

The man’s teammates were reportedly unable to enter the water to save him due to dangerous currents. The man’s body still had not been found on Tuesday afternoon.

Five racers from Singapore drowned during last year’s festival when their boat capsized while returning to the racing berth.

Officials estimate more than 4 million people have descended on the capital for the three-day festival, which celebrates the reversal of the flow of Tonle Sap and rivals Khmer New Year as the country’s most important national holiday.

Tonle Sap, a river-lake system which changes its flow twice a year, is of huge importance to Cambodia. During the dry season, the Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong river at Phnom Penh, but reverses its flow during the rainy season. (dpa)

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