TUOL Kork district authorities met Monday with families whose homes were destroyed last week in a fire in the district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune, asking them to prepare for a reconstruction plan aimed at increasing the accessibility of the community to emergency services.
The fire destroyed 178 homes, as well as dormitory rooms in the community’s Neak Von pagoda, killing no one but leaving 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks homeless.
Tuol Kork district Governor Seng Ratanak said the fire proved so destructive in part because the roads in the community were too narrow for fire trucks to get at the heart of the blaze. As homes are reconstructed, Seng Ratanak said, villagers will have to make space for three new access roads designed to prevent a repeat of last week’s inferno.
Resident Nuon Chamroeun, 29, said after the meeting that he was happy with the plan, which will set homes at least 10 metres away from the railroad tracks that run through the community and 3 metres away from the fence around Neak Von pagoda.
He added, however, that he was still nervous about the possibility of his being forced to relocate to Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, a prospect floated last week by local officials as an alternative to the reconstruction of the community.
“That area is empty and has no market. I would not like living there,” Nuon Chamroeun said.
Srey Pao, 27, another resident, shared Nuon Chamroeun’s opinion. “If we were moved to an area without a market, we could not earn a living,” she said.
Speaking on Monday at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Cambodians to pay special attention to fire safety during the dry season, saying that incidents like last week’s fire would likely become more frequent as a result of climate change.
The premier lived at Neak Von pagoda during his youth, and he said his former dormitory room was one of those destroyed as the fire spread through the community.
“I was a pagoda boy. I still regard myself as a student of monks,” Hun Sen said. He called on municipal authorities and Mong Reththy, president of the Mong Reththy Group, who also once lived at Neak Von pagoda, to support reconstruction of his former home.
“Please consider rebuilding the house where I used to live. The fire did not know it was the house of a pagoda boy who became the prime minister,” Hun Sen said.