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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Year’s Eve blaze kills four

New Year’s Eve blaze kills four

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People look through debris yesterday following a fire which may have been lit deliberately just minutes before the New Year and led to the deaths of a woman and her two children.

A pregnant mother and her two children died in a fire police suspect may have been deliberately lit in their rented apartment in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district about 15 minutes before the New Year, officials said yesterday.

Meas Sopheap, Phsar Thmey II commune chief in Daun Penh district, said that 35-year-old mother Hem Chanthorn, 10-year-old Neng Nisa and Neng Phagna, 4, died of smoke inhalation on their
enclosed balcony.

Hem Chanthorn’s husband was attending a New Year’s Eve party at another location at the time and did not arrive on the scene until after the blaze had begun.

“They died because it was stuffy and they choked on smoke because the balcony was too small that the smoke could not move out. They did not burn to death,” he said.

Meas Sopheap said that while officials initially suspected that the blaze may have been caused by an electrical fault, doctors were examining the victims’ bodies to ascertain whether the fire was
accidental or deliberate.

“We suspect that they died before the fire, that’s why we called the health officials to check their bodies, but they did not have injuries or marks on their bodies,” Meas Sopheap told the Post. Deputy director of the municipal fire department, Chhin Sam Our, said yesterday that fire officials and some local officials suspected that the fire had been deliberately lit.

Meas Sopheap said that neighbours had helped to extinguish the fire as there was no road for fire engines to access the apartment.

“We really felt sad to see this case happen to the victims, and we paid more than 1 million riel (US$248) to help their family because the victim’s husband did not have money with him,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities recorded no injuries in two fires that occurred in Meanchey district’s Boeung Tompun commune yesterday morning and afternoon.

Boeung Tompun commune chief Sous Sarin said that two wooden houses burned down in fires caused by electrical faults.

“The local authorities and fire officials tried to put out the fire on time so that it did not spread to other houses, but valuable [possessions] were burned,” he said.

Sous Sarin added that about five fire engines extinguished one fire and the other was put out by the owner of the house.

He also added a word of caution to those living in wooden houses, that the dry season increased the risk of fire from electrical malfunctions.

Chhin Sam Our said there were about 80 fires in the capital last year.

“Eight people died and five were injured in fires in 2011,” he said.

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