A fuel spill at a petrol station caught fire on Monday, killing two teenage girls, lightly injuring two other people and destroying four houses in Mondulkiri province’s Pou Chrei commune, authorities said on Tuesday.
Mondulkiri police chief Lor Sokha told The Post that the petrol station owner’s “negligence” contributed to the accident.
Police said a leaking pipe used to transfer petrol from a tanker to the fuel station’s storage had caused a spill, spreading to the kitchen in the owner’s house located next to the pumps.
The spill caught fire in the kitchen, where the two teenagers were cooking, before the combustion spread to other areas of the house.
Sokha identified the petrol station owner as Heang Sothy, 47, the father of the deceased teenagers, Heang Samphors, 17, and Heang Srey Lin, 14.
Two other victims, Sokha said, were Sothy’s wife Phon Sophorn, 38, and his older sister Heang Treng, 55. The two sustained minor burns and were sent to the provincial referral hospital by police.
Yan Sany, Pou Chrei police chief, said: “When the fire occurred, [Sothy] and a neighbour rushed into the house to rescue his wife and older sister. Unfortunately, the two young girls were burnt severely and suffocated before the fire was put out.”
After the blaze, he added, the oil tanker’s driver, whose identity has not been revealed, fled the scene.
Two police vehicles escorted an ambulance carrying remains of the deceased to Prey Veng province, Sany said.
Sany said he had taken part in efforts to put out the fire that lasted for more than six hours between 5:30pm and 1:45am on Tuesday. Five fire engines and 25 water containers were deployed to extinguish the blaze, he added.
According to recent figures issued by the National Police’s Fire and Rescue Police Department, there were 149 fires in Cambodia between December 15 and February 15, in which two people were killed and 57 injured.
Millions of dollars of damage to property was also recorded, the figures show.
The department regarded Phnom Penh, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap as “hotbeds for fire” during the period.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement urging local authorities and people to be vigilant regarding fire-related incidents, which “occur easily, especially during the dry season”.
In case of fire, the statement said, people must immediately inform the nearest local authority to them or contact the fire department by dialling 117, or 666 for Phnom Penh residents.