A family of four was killed after a fire engulfed their house in the early hours of yesterday morning in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, with initial reports suggesting it was caused by an electrical fault.
Local authorities said the blaze in Phnom Penh Thmey commune’s Chres village began at about 4am, killing Kem Chanroth, 36, and his wife, Sem Sophal, 36, as well as their two daughters Kem Channary, 10, and Kem Suorsey, 3. Chanroth worked locally as a vendor selling assorted goods including petrol, beverages and ice, while Sophal was a teacher.
According to Sophal’s sister, Sem Sopha, the family died together.
“After the authorities extinguished the fire, I saw the bodies of my sister, her husband and their children hugging each other,” she said yesterday at the scene.
The fire also affected two neighbouring homes, though nobody else was reported injured.
The sister, who lives next door in one of the affected homes, said she was woken at about 4:15am to the sound of screams but thought it was a robbery occurring elsewhere. She said she did not get up or check on her sister’s home because she believed she was staying with the children at their father’s house 600 metres away, and she thought Chanroth was in another part of the city.
“Then I saw the flames right behind my house,” she said. “When I opened the door and came outside, the fire had already burned my sister’s house down.”
While onlookers at the scene yesterday speculated the incident could have been murder or a revenge attack, the other neighbour whose house was affected, Muth Makara, 34, said the family had no enemies and was convinced it was just a tragic accident.
“They were good people, and helpful, and they were loved by all the villagers,” she said.
However, nobody could explain why the family had been unable to escape the blaze, given the upper part of the house where the family was sleeping was made of wood that should have been easily broken down, and the house abuts unused land that would have offered them safety from the flames.
The police investigation remains ongoing to establish the exact circumstances of the fire. A funeral service was held for the family in Chres village yesterday evening.