Cause is unknown, fire department says it did its best to contain blaze but was hindered by bad traffic, lack of water.
Residents desperately try to douse flames engulfing a home on Wednesday.
FIFTEEN houses - some wood, some of brick - were destroyed in a fire that swept along Street 338 early Wednesday in Tuol Tumpong II commune. Commune Chief Yuon Soporn said nobody was injured in the blaze, which left 16 families homeless and wrecked 27 vehicles.
The cause of the fire was not known, he said, because most of the houses were locked, as they belonged to vendors who were at the market at the time.
"However, I would guess that the cause could be from burning incense - today is the Buddhist holy day and people always pray on this day," Yuon Soporn said. "The fire started on the first floor of one of the houses and spread from there."
Resident Veng Eang said his house was completely gutted by the blaze.
"I don't know what happened. All I saw was that the house behind mine was on fire, and then the flames jumped across to my house with such speed," he said. "I couldn't save any of my possessions and just got out with my life. Everything I owned is gone - I have nothing left."
The director of the city's fire department, Neth Vantha, said his fire trucks had spent an hour-and-a-half at the scene, but were slow getting there.
"The problem is that it was early in the morning, and so the traffic jams made it difficult to get here," he said. "We sent 14 fire trucks, and they made a total of 42 trips using 168 cubic metres of water
"The key difficulty when trying to help people fight fires is that we don't have any water storage tankers, so once the engine has run out of water it has to return to the station to pump more water into its tanks," Neth Vantha explained.
The city suffered 18 fires in the first three months of 2009, said Neth Vantha, compared with 46 cases last year.