Seventeen hectares of rice fields were consumed by a blaze in Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district early on Sunday morning, leaving four families without their harvest, officials said.
Changha commune deputy chief Hoeung Yok said local residents initially spotted smoke coming from a rice field that had been harvested in Sisophon town’s M’kak commune at about 8am.
Two hours later, they noticed that the flames had spread to another rice field that had not yet been harvested in Changha, which borders M’kak, he said.
“Luckily, there was a huge canal [near] the fire, so the fire did not spread. Otherwise, thousands of hectares of rice plantations that had not been harvested could have been burnt into ash,” Yok said.
Banteay Meanchy provincial police chief Ath Khem said fire engines were not able to enter the area because it was too muddy, but that firefighters had extinguished the blaze within two hours of it starting.
Khem said authorities will now investigate the cause of the fire. The 17 hectares that burned had belonged to four separate families. Yorn Yet, a 38-year-old whose family lost 10 of the 17 hectares, said he was renting six of those and now was left with nothing.
“Last year, we had a drought and I had much hope for this year, but now it’s another loss,” Yet said. “At the moment, I want to cry, but I have no tears. What I can do is call for support from authorities and donors.”
Seang Vanseth, the director of the provincial department of agriculture, said officials would visit the affected families to deliver food today.