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Inferno reduced to embers, demolition imminent

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Firefighters and police officials worked night and day to contain and ongoing fire at a mattress factory in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district.

Inferno reduced to embers, demolition imminent

Fire and police officials worked throughout the night to tackle the blaze which reduced Heng Heng Mattress Factory to a smouldering rubble.

Forty-six firetrucks and about 450 firefighters and police officials were on sight on Saturday to tackle the blaze, break down structures and direct traffic.

Firemen took shifts throughout the night in shifts. Some of them recovered from their duty on crimson coloured mattresses produced in the factory.

No injuries or fatalities have been reported since the fire started yesterday, nor has any cause been determined.

Officials say that a proper investigation will be conducted after the situation comes to an end.

The main challenge throughout the ordeal was ensuring an adequate supply of water to fuel the efforts from firemen.

Officials said hydro trucks had to make “hundreds” of trips to hydrants in surrounding areas to stock up on water.

National Committee for Disaster Management first vice president Kun Kim was on site all day to direct the operations. On several occasions Kim helmed the firehose himself to target patches of smoldering rubble.

As soon as one patch was managed, another area would break out in flames, sending toxic plumes of black smoke into the air.

Vechna Som Sovan, a veteran fireman with 12 years of service, said it was fortunate that the fire broke out in the afternoon.

“If it happened during the night when they were sleeping, maybe it would have been worse and people could have been hurt,” said Sovan.

A business owner near the premises who spoke to The Post under the condition of anonymity said that employees had told him that the fire was caused by faulty machinery.

“When I asked the staff, they said the machines started making noise. They say when the machine (exploded), then the electrical system began (sparking),” the business owner said.

He also confirmed that a smaller fire had started some years earlier which the director of the company was able to extinguish by using foam – before adding that it took almost an hour for all of the employees to evacuate the grounds.

“If they say it’s a fire from the electrical system then the story is closed," the business owner said.

His colleague added that there were several barrels present at site and speculated that it may have been either oil or chemicals.

Photographs shared by local media confirm that there were barrels onsite, but there is no visible signage to indicate that the contents were flammable.

As evening fell, despite small fires still burning inside, the living quarters for factory workers were still standing, thanks to a scaffolding constructed before the flames consumed the structure.

Sokirakboth Kech, manager for Pisnoka International Corp – the company charged with the demolition of the building and the walls which surrounded the factory said that it was unlikely that the living quarters would stand much longer.

Yesterday, officials had fully expected the building to come down on its own.

“The scaffolding cannot support the building much longer because of all of the concrete and metal slabs inside of it still. It will be difficult to keep the building standing. I think either tonight or tomorrow we will have to demolish it,” Kech said.

Police officials and firefighters credited the collective effort of neighbours and fellow factory workers from the neighbourhood in containing the blaze.

Electricite du Cambodge was unable to confirm when power service would resume in the neighbourhood. As of 8 pm residents in the neighbourhood were still not allowed to return home.

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