IT was a scene of destruction Thursday morning as a raging fire set light to more than 200 homes in Russey Keo’s Chraing Chamres II commune and left even the local police station and commune hall destroyed.
The morning saw residents frantically trying to salvage what possessions they could from the roaring blaze.
“Help my home! Help my home!” Samrith Sary cried as fire trucks, sirens wailing, pulled into the street. She ran back and forth on the road, lugging plastic containers filled with water and throwing the liquid on the walls of her burning home.
As the fire continued to spread, loud explosions could be heard from inside the burning police station as bullets and ammunition ignited.
Elsewhere along National Road 5, parents called out to their children while police officers stopped trucks hauling canisters of oil and gas from driving past.
The village’s densely packed houses hindered police and fire crews, who were left with only one metre of manoeuvring room in some parts.
Officials bulldozed some burning homes to allow fire trucks to enter, Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said.
By Thursday evening, officials counted 229 homes torched by the fire.
No one was injured, commune Chief Vann Thorn said.
Officials said they did not know what started the blaze.
However, one eyewitness said she saw the first signs of smoke and fire coming from the home of the local medicine seller.
“There was a burning smell,” said Ly Mary, whose house was also ravaged by the blaze.
“I walked to the window. Suddenly, I saw the smoke and fire flow out from his house. After that, the fire spread to other houses,” Ly Mary said.