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‘Tornado-like storm’ kills two

Villagers inspect a concrete pillar yesterday that toppled over during a storm and killed two in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district
Villagers inspect a concrete pillar yesterday that toppled over during a storm and killed two in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district. Vireak Mai

‘Tornado-like storm’ kills two

A mother and child were killed on Tuesday in what Russey Keo district residents described as a tornado-like storm that stripped off roofs, split trees and swept chairs and baby chicks into the skies.

According to villagers, the unprecedented weather started with clouds thickening and turning darker than the muddy river. The winds gathered speed and formed a long, rotating vortex that pummelled their homes for more than an hour.

Mot Saly, 30, was securing his property while his mother-in-law took his 6-month-old daughter to a neighbouring village. His wife, 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son were huddled inside the house when he said he saw the storm’s funnel rip his home from its stilts and drop it back down as a collapsed pile of wood.

“When I took my wife’s and my daughter’s bodies out, I saw my son was unconscious in a ditch with wood from the house covering him. At first I thought maybe he was dead as well. But after I pulled him from the ditch I could feel him breathing and saw blood pouring from his head,” Saly said.

He buried his wife and daughter at the Prek Rang village mosque yesterday, while his neighbours rebuilt their homes.

“I’ve never seen a storm like that before,” said Reung Sarin, 35, whose sheet metal roof was torn off by the storm. “When the wind started we went into the house together. But after it blew away our wall and roof we rushed outside, afraid it would take the whole building,” he said.

Sarin’s roof, which yesterday consisted of motley cardboard pieces, plastic and partially repaired tin sheets, will cost him more than $400 to replace. But he said he counts himself lucky: The storm lost speed by touching down on his neighbour’s trees before ramming into his house.

Down the street from Sarin, Eim Soeun, 49, said she was making soup in her makeshift outdoor kitchen when she was stunned by the storm.

“We’ve had floods, we’ve had rain, we’ve had winds, but we’ve never had a storm that destroyed like that,” she said.

The National Committee of Disaster Management (NCDM) could not confirm yesterday whether the incident was a tornado. Tornadoes have been recorded infrequently in Cambodia, with one in 1998, one in 2000 and two in 2006.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology could not be reached, but earlier this year, it warned that increasing hot spells due in part to climate change will result in low air pressure, which can cause more storms, lightning and tornadoes.

Keo Vy, NCDM spokesman, told the Post last week that in the first four months of this year, severe weather, not including lightning strikes, has killed two people.

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