Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hundreds die in tragic end to water festival



Hundreds die in tragic end to water festival

Hundreds die in tragic end to water festival

Hundreds died and hundreds more were injured last night in a stampede on Diamond Island’s north bridge, bringing a tragic close to the final day of water festival celebrations in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced via video conference at 2:30am that 339 people had been confirmed dead and 329 injured.

“With this miserable event, I would like to share my condolences with my compatriots and the family members of the victims,” he said.

“This needs to be investigated more.”

“This is the biggest tragedy since the Pol Pot regime,” he said, adding that Cambodia would hold a national day of mourning on Thursday and that a committee would be set up to investigate the incident.

The cause of the stampede has not yet been confirmed, but Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said it happened because “one million people”, many of whom were leaving the island, became “scared of something.”

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth also could not confirm the series of events that led to the disaster.

“People were afraid and began to trample each other and some jumped into the river,” he said at the scene.

Bedlam ensued as the frenzied crowd began to push its way off the bridge, causing a jam that made it nearly impossible to breathe, according to witnesses.

With no other escape route, hundreds of people began jumping off the suspension bridge.

Sirens started to awaken city residents minutes later as ambulances, police cars and emergency vehicles began rushing to the scene, where they had to clear away the crowd before reaching victims.

Boats were called in to pull people out of the water and ferry others across the narrow Bassac River to the shore in front of the Royal Palace, where emergency workers fought through the crowd of frantic onlookers to care for the injured.

The bodies of victims were taken away in ambulances, flat-bed trucks and motor-bikes to area hospitals as police struggled to clear away the crowd by shouting, pushing and beating them back with their belts.

As the scene cleared, many bodies remained on the road, which was littered with shoes, shirts, pants and other objects dropped in the mayhem. Pieces of cardboard were placed over the heads of those obviously dead, while bystanders fanned people thought to be still alive.

Area hospitals confirmed that hundreds were either dead on arrival or died soon after, with witnesses on hand giving various explanations for the initial cause of the stampede and the actual cause of deaths.

A doctor at Calmette hospital, who declined to give his name, said after a preliminary assessment the principal causes of death among the victims he had examined were suffocation and electrocution.

Ouk Sokhhoeun, 21, was at the scene with his sister, 23-year-old Ouk Srey Mom, who was left unconscious and taken to Calmette hospital, said that military police started firing water cannons into the crowd on the bridge after the stampede had already caused scores of people to fall unconscious.

He said the water caused many people on the bridge to receive electric shocks from the cables lighting the bridge, at which point “some police also received electric shocks”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting