Three people were injured – one of them severely – and several market stalls and homes were destroyed in two fires in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang provinces on Wednesday, officials said yesterday.
Pich Thary, chief of police in Kandieng district’s Sre Sdock commune, in Pursat province, said that eight stalls went up in flames when a gas canister inside a local market exploded at about 8:20pm on Wednesday.
Locals said that they heard the sound of the explosion within the market, which was closed at the time, before seeing flames begin to spread inside.
Panicked vendors then rushed into the market in a desperate attempt to retrieve their goods from within, but the flames quickly grew more intense, giving three people burns.
Thary identified the injured as Lonh Chert, 17, who was burned on his extremities; Sun Khan, 45, who was burned on the face and arm; and a 14-year-old he identified only as Vivin, who suffered the most severe burns, which entirely covered one side of his body.
Chert and Khan were sent to the provincial hospital for treatment, but Vivin was burned so badly that he was sent to Phnom Penh by provincial doctors.
“After monitoring and interrogating people at the site, police concluded that the blaze was caused by a gas explosion,” Thary said, but since no one witnessed the initial blast, the actual cause of the explosion in the market remained unknown yesterday, he added.
The fire was extinguished by about 9:10pm.
In a separate blaze, at least 15 houses were totally destroyed in Kampong Chhnang town’s Phsar Chhnang commune at about 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, according to Hai Monorum, Kampong Chhnang town governor.
“However, no one was injured or killed in the incident,” Monorum said, adding that fire fighters had managed to put out the blaze after more than an hour.
Rin Rotha, the chief of Phsar Chhnang’s commune police, said that he suspected the conflagration had spread from a fire used for drying fish, as many of the residents in the area are dried fish sellers, and because “four years ago, 45 houses there were burned down because of the carelessness in drying the fish”.