P hnom Penh's Deum Chahn village has become a hive of activity as thousands of
families rally together to rebuild their homes in the wake of a fire that razed
628 wooden houses on the banks of the Tonle Sap.
For many of the 1,335
Khmer and Vietnamese families left homeless after the fire gutted the shanty
town near the Ho Chi Minh bridge, a piece of plastic and some charred wooden
boards are their only possessions.
Soun Son, 58, who had a market stall
selling clothes, started weeping as she remembered the tragedy which killed
three adults, two children and wounded five.
"I lost everything," said
Son, who has had to sleep with her four children on wooden benches on top of the
rubble where her house used to be. I will have to borrow money to start up all
Like Son, Sok Samoen, 52, also lost everything he owned.
Samoen, a driver for a transport company, who will also have to borrow money to
rebuild his home, said he spotted smoke from the fire while driving his taxi on
the other side of the city.
"When I got back, everything had burned. The
children rescued as much as they could. I have lost my house, furniture,
Another victim, Chea Chey, 35, said she and her
family are sleeping in the ruins of their home. While her three children play
among the charred remains of their house, Chey cuts vegetables for a meal on a
While the sounds of hammers, saws and drills ring out
across the area as villagers build wooden structures, erect scaffolding and
string up blue plastic sheets for cover, investigations into the cause of the
Leng Huor, 39, said the fire started in the house of
noodle-maker, Ket Vanny, 38, who has not been seen since the fire. "He was
burning incense sticks I think," said Leng Huor. "The children may have knocked
Even women are making a contribution to rebuilding Deum
Chahn. Many, carrying vegetables and fruit from the nearby Chbar Ampor market to
cook over their charcoal stoves.
Children play among bricks and burned
refuse. Broken glass has been swept into piles, out of harm's way.
loss in financial terms has not yet been assessed.
King Norodom Sihanouk
has urged humanitarian organizations, the government and authorities to provide
aid to the victims, government news agency AKP reported.
Red Cross has supplied 50 kilograms of rice to each family and 15 local NGOs
from the Urban Sector Group visited the site the day after the fire to survey
A total of $20,000 has been donated or pledged and
some of the money has been used already to buy plastic sheeting which has been
distributed through the area.