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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Blaze leaves nearly 2,000 homeless

Blaze leaves nearly 2,000 homeless

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Sim Matly, 75, sits in the ruins of his former home after fires destroyed the area in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district last week. Many families have begun to rebuild.

WE ARE APPEALING FOR MORE DONORS TO HELP THESE FAMILIES.

Almost 2,000 people were left homeless by a massive blaze that tore through a village in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district last week, officials said Sunday, as authorities struggled to explain what sparked the flames.

Officials said 243 houses in Phnom Penh’s Chraing Chamres II commune were destroyed in the fire, leaving 1,934 mostly Cham Muslim villagers without homes.

Now some of the village children are falling sick after playing in the ashes of the village’s wrecked homes, families said.

Tin Ashsimas, 48, said her two children had developed fevers and bowel problems.

“We would like to request the government as well as NGOs to help provide us with toilets and physicians,” Tin Ashsimas said. “Right now, we have nothing.”

Local authorities and Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) officials continued to appeal for help, even as the first supplies of aid were to have been handed out this weekend.

Neth Sophana, the CRC’s director of disaster management, said families were scheduled to receive 50 kilograms each of rice, as well as fish sauce, mosquito nets and blankets.

“We are appealing for more donors to help these families,” Neth Sophana said.

The Thursday morning fire spread quickly in the crowded village, tearing through the police station and commune hall. Many families in what is predominantly a fishing community came home hours later to find their homes destroyed, said Ly Rosamy, the district’s deputy governor.

“Some families were away when the fire struck because they were out selling fish,” she said.

Sok Kheng, 28, said the roaring flames prevented her family from retrieving anything from their home before it was destroyed.

“Everything is gone because of the fire,” she said.

For now, questions still surround the cause of the fire. On Thursday, one witness said she first saw flames shooting up from the house of a local medicine seller.

Commune Chief Van Thorn said officials were still investigating, but acknowledged he had heard the same rumours that the blaze was sparked by an electrical explosion in the medicine seller’s house.

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