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Bridge evidence sought as death tally climbs

Bridge evidence sought as death tally climbs


Warning: The following video contains images that viewers may find highly distressing.

Government officials yesterday revised the death toll from last week’s stampede on Diamond Island up to 351, as members of the committee investigating the incident appealed to the public to provide documentary evidence.

The new total followed last week’s announcement that 347 people had been killed, a figure that was itself revised downward from a previously announced total of 456.

Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng, the chairman of one of the sub-committees investigating the incident, said in a statement that two of the additional victims had died of their injuries at local hospitals, while the other two had been taken directly from the scene to their homes by relatives and had been unaccounted for previously.

A total of 395 people were reported injured, the statement said, though that total has yet to be finalised.

Government officials said last week that preliminary results of their investigation indicated that the crush occurred when thousands panicked following the swaying of the suspension bridge. Om Yentieng, the deputy chairman of the investigatory committee, said the full findings would likely be released this week.

As the inquiry continues, Prum Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior who also chairs one of the investigatory sub-committees, appealed to the public to provide witness statements and documentary evidence to assist the committee, and that such data could be submitted to the internal security department of the National Police or Military Police.

“In order to complete the investigation fairly and in detail, the sub-committee would like to appeal to the public to give more information and evidence regarding the incident,” Prum Sokha said.

Dozens of videos showing TV and amateur footage of the disaster appeared on the video-sharing site YouTube yesterday, including a user-submitted video shot from the side of the bridge that shows desperate victims climbing over the side and jumping into the water below.

Hundreds of relatives and onlookers gathered at the bridge yesterday for the “seven days” ceremony to commemorate those who died at the site.

“I believe the soul of my son is still here, so I have to come and offer food to him,” said Nguyen Yang Thanh, an ethnic Vietnamese fisherman from Kandal province. Nguyen said his son had been killed on Monday night, and that his wife was still recovering from her injuries at Calmette Hospital.

“When I come here, it reminds me of the horrific event and I feel powerless to do anything,” Nguyen said.

Calmette still struggling
Treatment rooms at Calmette Hospital remained at over-capacity yesterday, nearly a week after the stampede.

Patients lined the hallways of the facility, many with drip IVs. On the ground floor, 17 who had previously been lying on mats on the ground had been moved onto cots. Several dozen relatives and friends were still camped on the grounds outside, where they had laid out hammocks, mats and other belongings.

A Calmette official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said yesterday that 142 patients were receiving care in relation to the tragedy, with four in urgent care. Hospital staff referred further questions to staff at the Ministry of Health, who could not be reached for comment.

One of the patients lying on a cot in the hospital hallway was Oim Sinara, 27, who was joined by his aunt, 55-year-old Ty Lang. She and other relatives said they had spent last Monday night scouring local hospitals for Oim Sinara before finally finding him at 4am.

Ty Lang claimed hospital staff had initially requested money for her nephew’s treatment, despite a pledge from the government of free medical care for Diamond Island survivors.
“Some tried to demand money from us, but we told medical staff that Prime Minister Hun Sen does not allow us to pay the money. When we explained this to medical staff, then they did not make us pay,” she said.

Later on, she added, other staffers returned, again seeking payment.

“I said, ‘If you want the money, please write your name and how much money you want and I will pay you’”, Ty Lang said. “And they did not write their names.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS MILLER AND THET SAMBATH

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