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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fire at garment factory kills 1

Firefighters battle a blaze that burned a garment factory to the ground in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district
Firefighters battle a blaze that burned a garment factory to the ground in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district yesterday. Pha Lina

Fire at garment factory kills 1

An early-morning blaze killed one Chinese national and injured three others at a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district yesterday.

The fire that burned the Chang Sheng factory to the ground, killing clothing inspector, Zing Zangsun, 42 – who lived there – was caused by an electrical malfunction, said Net Vatha, director of Phnom Penh’s fire department.

“People should learn from this fire, because it was mostly caused by the factory’s electrical connection,” Vatha said. “Electrical wires should be connected correctly and fire extinguishers should be available for protection.”

About 80 per cent of the building was burned, he said.

Damage from the fire had not been calculated as of yesterday, said Hel Phalla, an administrative staffer at Chang Sheng. But Vatha estimated the loss to be about $2 million, he said.

Security guard Sun Vanny yesterday said he immediately called the fire department at about 4am when he saw smoke coming through the crack of a door, he told a Post reporter yesterday.

Fire officials say the building likely became fully engulfed about an hour later.

Chin Ravy, a villager who lives in and rents rooms out of a house neighbouring the factory said many of his tenants ran away from the rental property when they saw the fire next door.

A fire crew rests after extinguising the blaze that destroyed the Chang Sheng factory Phnom Penh
A fire crew rests after extinguising the blaze that destroyed the Chang Sheng factory Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

“Nothing [at my house] was damaged, but I am scared and have packed my belongings already,” Ravy said yesterday morning, as flames continued to torch the factory. “The people who rent rooms in my house just ran away, because they were so scared.”

While the approximately 900 employees who work for the factory are reeling from the fire and Zangsun’s death, most are also nervous about how this will affect their monthly salary, which is due in a few days, said Lon Ry, a 47-year-old Chang Sheng worker whose daughter also works there.

“I hope the factory thinks about the employees’ salaries, because [workers] will not have enough money to pay their housing and food expenses,” Ry said yesterday. “But the factory officials will meet us Tuesday.”

After nearly 27 trucks put out the fire, responding officials removed two iron safes full of money, Vatha said.

Because Chang Sheng is so close to several other factories, some will remain closed for a few days while the acrid smoke clears out from rooms and corridors, said a worker at T&K, which abuts the burned factory.

Considering the cause of the fire, Dave Welsh, factory owners and the government should be more vigilant about fire safety, especially in the country’s most lucrative industry.

“There’s a responsibility to make sure that... [employees’] right to work in a safe environment is upheld,” Welsh said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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