Less than two days after a fire gutted a large section of the Old Market in Phnom Penh, hundreds of stalls at the Kor Andeut market in Prey Veng province’s Kampong Trabek district were engulfed in flames that spread to nearby houses, damaging some two dozen properties, authorities in the area said.
Om Chamrouen, the Kampong Trabek district police chief, said the fire started at 1:30am yesterday and wasn’t put out until seven hours later. Some 263 stalls were damaged along with 24 houses adjoining the market.
Photos of the market look like a bomb went off inside, virtually obliterating the market beyond recognition.
While market fires in Cambodia are relatively common, the circumstances surrounding both blazes were remarkably similar. The fires started while vendors weren’t doing business yet, firetrucks didn’t arrive until it was way too late, and rumours spread as fast as the fire that arsonists were responsible – so as to make way for development projects. Electrical faults were the reasons given for both fires.
After the Old Market fire, the city moved to quickly put out the arson rumours, and Chamrouen did the same yesterday.
“There is no plan to develop the market”, he said. “It happened at night and our firetrucks were far away from the scene, that’s why it was difficult to stop.”
He added that the authorities sent four firetrucks from Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, and 100 police officials assisted with the effort. “There was no one killed or injured, but all the goods of the vendors and in the houses [that were affected by the flames] were completely damaged.”
Chan Van, Kampong Trabek district governor said the timing of the fire – coming as it did so early in the morning, when most people were asleep – prevented a quick reaction on many fronts.
“We had difficulty controlling it. And some vendors and the house owners could not come on time to take their goods out, so everything was damaged,” he said.
Clothing vendor Som Van, 34, said that she lives in another district in Prey Veng, and when her family finally arrived at the market, everything in their stall was burnt.
“My clothes in the stall are completely ruined,” he said.
Chan Than, a 38-year-old homeowner in the district, said he saw the fire grow in the middle of the market. But no trucks came, and it got bigger and bigger until it moved on to the nearby houses.
“The firetrucks were so late,” he said. “We were panicking. We could not collect anything in the house, we just took our small children and other family members.”
No compensation will be offered in the Old Market fire earlier this week, because it was an accident, the city told vendors.
Though compensation wasn’t openly discussed yet, that may be the next similarity to come.