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Buildings razed in Siem Reap fire

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Siem Reap resident Met Mun lost his home and bakery in a blaze that started early in the morning, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Photograph: Alistair Walsh/Phnom Penh Post

Three buildings burned to the ground in the early hours yesterday in Siem Reap town’s Svay Dangkum commune, less than 200 metres from December’s fatal night market fire.

Flames destroyed a bakery, a travel agency and a pharmacy as well as the homes of dozens of people who lived in the buildings, but no one was killed or injured, said Siem Reap deputy police chief Thoeung Chendarith.

Witnesses said the fire started at about 1:30am due to an electrical problem in the pharmacy before spreading to the rest of the building – which housed two families – and the travel agency next door. It then engulfed a third building, the site of a bakery and the residence of more than 30 people.  

“I saw the fire, and I woke my family up,” said Met Mun, the owner of Stung Thmei Bread. “When I saw the fire starting to spread, I moved all my motorbikes, cars and property out of the house.”

Tel Piseth, owner of the pharmacy’s building, also said he managed to evacuate the house before the flames injured anyone.

“They woke us up and said there was a fire burning,” said Christopher Ostrowski, a guest at the Siem Reap Sky Inn, where flames damaged the façade but did not spread inside.

“I opened the curtains and all you could see was flames.

“It was hectic on the street. Everyone was in panic, saying it might explode.”

The fire brigade arrived an hour after the fire began, said Mun.

“They came too late to save much,” Piseth said. “They hosed the building down but didn’t put it completely out until around 4am.”

Siem Reap Provincial Deputy Governor Bun Narith said residents needed to be particularly mindful of electrical malfunctions during this year’s dry season, reiterating authorities’ warnings after last month’s night market fire, which left eight people dead and two seriously injured.

Narith added that the province is looking to add more fire trucks to its current stock of nine.

Last week, a fire from a gas explosion burned down a 15-room house in Siem Reap town’s Slakram commune.

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