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Club blaze kills three, injures two

A family member prays for the victims of a deadly fire that blazed through the Key Club in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district
A family member prays for the victims of a deadly fire that blazed through the Key Club in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Pha Lina

Club blaze kills three, injures two

Three people died and two others were injured yesterday when fire ravaged the inside of the Key Club, an entertainment venue in the capital’s Meanchey district, commune police said.

Yem Sovathdeth, 32, the general manager and pregnant wife of the club’s owner; Vin Piseth, 29, a security guard; and Yean Darith, 29, who was tasked with stocking the venue’s wine, died during the fire.

Dy Lida, 29, a security guard at the club on National Road 2 and one of two injured during the incident, told the Post the fire began about 10am yesterday.

The second person injured, Phun Bunthoeun, the club’s owner, was taken to hospital.

Commune police officials on the scene said the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.

Speaking to the Post yesterday, Lida said he had heard an explosion outside the club, which had caused him to rush outside.

“I went back inside and continued working with my boss [Bunthoeun],” he said. “Several minutes later, I saw flames coming from the ceiling, so my boss and I ran to get water to stop the flames from spreading.”

Shaking, Lida said Sovathdeth had remained inside.

Smoke quickly filled the space, Lida added. This trapped Sovathdeth in a room, which soon filled with smoke, preventing her from being rescued in time.

The two others that lost their lives were sleeping in another room, Dy confirmed.

“I tried knocking on their door, but they did not reply and I did not know they were sleeping,” Dy said, adding that he and Bunthoeun escaped through a back door.

Hours after the fire had been extinguished, four men stood behind the club’s doors, covered in soot, stopping reporters and civilians from entering.

They refused to comment on the cause of the fire and directed inquiries to the families of the victims.

While fire damage was noticeable at the club’s entrance, damage to the building’s exterior was not immediately evident.

Standing near the entrance, Keo Minea, a Chak Angre Krom commune police official, said he had been drinking coffee nearby when he learned of the fire.

“At the time, we did not know the club was on fire. Later we saw the smoke but no flames. Local officials intervened immediately to help the victims put out the flames,” Minea said, directing the Post to Chak Angre Krom Pagoda, where the three bodies were at rest.

Mourners arrived to pay their respects to Sovathdeth, Piseth and Darith, their bodies laid beneath white cloth as incense burned and women cried while tying red string around the wrists of onlookers.

Net Vantha, director of Phnom Penh Municipal Fire Department, told the Post that fire burned for an hour and required five fire engines to stop the flames from spreading to neighbouring buildings.

“I have turned this case over to the authorities so they can work it out legally,” Vantha said.

Fire Department officials have recorded 95 fires in Phnom Penh since January. According to the department, 93 of the fires were serious and all were responded to in a timely fashion.

In an effort to prevent more fires, Vantha asked the community to continue exercising caution.

“City dwellers and craftsman using gas, electricity and candles must remember to turn off or blow out these things before leaving the house,” Vantha said.

A woman passing out bottles of water yesterday near a stage that cradled the bodies of the three victims expressed her sadness at what had happened.

“Today, he [Bunthoeun] lost so many – his wife and his baby,” she said, before dropping to her knees to pray.

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