She knew something was wrong, and ran.
“I was the most scared I have been in my life. I thought I was going to die. There was only one exit, past the night market. We covered ourselves in a wet towel and went out one at a time,” the woman said.
“The heat was intense. I was thinking: what if the fire comes over here? This is the only exit from the building.
“The smoke was thick, but it was all going up. Down here, it wasn’t too bad.”
It only got worse. The fire destroyed the market, leaving a mass of burnt-out stalls, twisted metal and charred goods at a time when Siem Reap is at the height of its tourist season and visitors from around the globe stream into the northwestern province to see the Angkor temples.
The deaths and damage also struck a painful chord at the end of an otherwise momentous week for the provincial capital.
Siem Reap International Airport celebrated its two millionth visitor, and the town was dotted with visual exhibitions while it hosted the Angkor Photo Festival, which ended on Saturday night.
For the market vendors who rely on the seasonal tourist influx every year to survive, the blaze was disastrous.
As usual, Radi Koe had locked up her shop of wooden souvenirs and gone home around midnight.
Koe’s phone rang with news of a fire, but she had already left her shop and decided to return later.
“I came here this morning,” she told the Post on Saturday, “and I’ve lost everything. I lost my shop and around $5,000 of stock. It’s very difficult.”