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A stream of water from a fire hose arcs over the head of a Phnom Penh firefighter as he walks through the gutted restaurant of the Juliana Hotel.
A stream of water from a fire hose arcs over the head of a Phnom Penh firefighter as he walks through the gutted restaurant of the Juliana Hotel. PHA LINA

Fire guts hotel restaurant

Fire destroyed the restaurant of the Juliana Hotel in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district yesterday evening after a number of gas tanks exploded in the kitchen as customers sat down for dinner, witnesses said.

Hotel staff who asked not to be named said diners were asked to evacuate the restaurant after a gas tank explosion set some of the kitchen ablaze and employees tried to quell the flames with fire extinguishers.

“We tried to tell them to go outside because of the fire, but some ignored us, pretending not to care,” he said. “The fire then spread, causing a chain reaction of exploding gas tanks. Then everyone ran out.”

The blaze began at about 5:30pm, sending fire trucks and police units rushing to the scene shortly after. However, it took firefighters until about 7:30 to control the blaze.

As smoke billowed across the Phnom Penh skyline, a separate fire broke out in a residential building little more than 100 metres away from the hotel.

This second fire, a police officer who asked not to be named said, was caused by an electrical fault. He declined to comment further.

Witness Srey Da said fear overcame her when she saw the building on fire. “We were very scared when smoke was coming out of the hotel,” she said.

Fearing the fire was going to spread, a number of residents living close to the Juliana Hotel rushed to carry valuable items out of their homes.

Neth Vantha, chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Fire Department, said crews also attended a third blaze a short distance away.

“There have been three fires today,” he said. “One in Tuol Svay Prey commune [Chamkarmon district] and two in Prampi Makara district.

“The big one was the Juliana Hotel. We used 44 of the fire trucks’ water tanks to extinguish the blaze. The fire destroyed 100 per cent of the restaurant.”

Contrary to the police’s comments, Vantha said he believed the second fire was also caused by a gas explosion in the kitchen of an empty flat.

“There were no injuries in any of the blazes, apart from one restaurant worker whose forearm was slightly singed,” he said.

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