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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rise in number of blazes in ’15

People use extinguishers to put out fires yesterday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich during National Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Day.
People use extinguishers to put out fires yesterday on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich during National Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Day. Heng Chivoan

Rise in number of blazes in ’15

The number of fires in Cambodia increased by 14.7 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year, killing 35 people and consuming almost 600 homes.

Electrical malfunctions were the leading cause of fires, accounting for 47 per cent of all fire incidents, with carelessness the second-leading cause, accounting for about 28 per cent, according to General Sous Angkea, deputy National Police chief.

The number of fire incidents in the country went up to 590 in 2015, from 514 in 2014. The blazes resulted in 35 deaths and 28 injuries, and the destruction of 595 houses, 421 market stalls, two warehouses, two garages, a nightclub, 18 cars and 10 tractors, Angkea said.

“The fire incidents increased remarkably,” he added. “That’s 76 cases up.”

The Ministry of Interior yesterday celebrated the first “National Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Day” on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich, where officers demonstrated preventive methods in an effort to spread awareness.

The estimated cost of fire damages and losses for the 2015 fires wasn’t available because victims sometimes decline to specify their losses, said Neth Vantha, director of the Interior Ministry’s Fire Department.

Paul Hurford, managing director at safety consultancy and equipment provider AziSafe, said the electrical malfunction cause given for nearly half of all fires in 2015 was vague and probably inaccurate, considering that fire servicemen lack the necessary skills, equipment and resources to investigate fires.

Regardless, he said, the fire-fighters are trying to do their jobs with what they have.

“There’s certainly more that they could do, but they are improving,” Hurford added.

Pa Socheatvong, Phnom Penh municipal governor, acknowledged yesterday that a lack of technical and specialised skills can sometimes make putting fires out in the capital “very complicated”.

He also cited the challenge of fire engines sometimes facing traffic congestion because some people don’t give them priority on the roads. What’s more, he said, some people don’t have fire extinguishers at home and are uneducated about preventive measures.

For his part, Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday urged authorities to educate the public on fire prevention, which Hurford said was “probably the biggest thing” for curbing fire risk.

According to deputy national police chief Angkea, there are 210 fire engines in service, including 128 from the national police, 25 from other state institutions and 57 from the private sector.

“The government plans to add 200 fire engines in the upcoming years, which are very effective in saving people, and public and private institutions, from fire danger,” he said.

Additionally, 596 fire fighters have been trained so far, he added.

Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro

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