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Scant resolution for blaze victims

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The charred remains of a tuk tuk at the site of a fire in a night market in Siem Reap townon Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. Photograph: Alistair Walsh

Officials remained unsure yesterday whether victims of the deadly fire that destroyed the Siem Reap Night Market over the weekend and took the lives of eight people – including four children – wouldreceive any compensation for their losses.

Noting that the man who rented out the property for the market had perished along with the other victims, Siem Reap deputy governor Bun Tharith said it was unclear how to determine the issue ofcompensation.

“The person who is liable for this has died, so I don’t know how to resolve this matter,” Tharith said.

“So far, the provincial authority has not received any complaint about compensation,” he added.

One of the youngest victims was Hou Sokrithea, an eight-year-old who died alongside his parents, sister and brother.

At the International School of Siem Reap, which Sokrithea had attended for the past three years, principal Richard Halliday remembered him yesterday as a stand-out. “He was a fantastic student, a lovelyboy with a lot of energy,” Halliday  said.

According to deputy governor Tharith, the market was built without proper construction that could open the way for emergency assistance, but the lease agreement with vendors was not clear about thesteps taken in the event of a destructive fire.

“I don’t think the market will re-open,” Tharith said.

Philippe Kiene, a bar worker from Australia, was at the scene just after the fire started and recalled gruesome sights as people fled for their lives.

“One guy walked out by himself. The whole side of his body looked cooked, and he had a five-centimetre gash on his foot, which was sealed up by the heat,” Kiene said.

“Ten or 15 minutes later, the next guy came out. He was completely pink, and all his skin was peeling off.”

By the end, virtually the entire market had burst into flames as the fire spread through more than 100 stalls and crept upwards into the housing area to claim its victims.

Damage estimates have placed the financial loss at more than $1 million.  

A source close to the owner said his lawyer had been trying to get in touch with the market‘s developer.

Although official compensation has yet to materalise, a group of expats in Siem Reap have banded together to help those who lost their possessions in the blaze.

Kate Arkwright, an Australian NGO worker, called a meeting yesterday for expats interested in raising funds for those affected by the fire.

“I saw lots of people giving their thoughts and condolences, and I thought there must be something we can actually do to help,” Arkwright told the Post.

Visitors to the area around the market yesterday could visit bars and restaurants.

The market itself has been blocked off and remains empty. No clean-up effort has yet begun.

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