FAMILIES were assessing the damage on Tuesday after a fire ripped through Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune on Monday evening, as local officials offered to relocate the displaced to plots of land in Kandal province.
Nuov Pheak, a commune official in Boeung Kak 2, said the blaze had left hundreds homeless, including 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks, with 178 homes and 31 dormitory rooms destroyed.
Local authorities are still unsure of how the fire started, he added.
“Currently, we are distributing food, tents and other materials to them for temporary living around the pagoda and the surrounding area,” Nuov Pheak said.
Gnith Khim, abbot of the commune’s Neak Von pagoda, said Tuesday that flames had spread from an area near the edge of the community into the dormitory rooms near the pagoda. He called for donations from the government and the private sector to support the dozens of residents who were gathering at his pagoda in the aftermath of the fire.
Speaking at the pagoda, Tuol Kork district Governor Seng Ratanak said he had been distributing food, water and tents to local residents. He said he was preparing for a meeting with community representatives in the near future in the hope of convincing them to move to Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district – an offer that has sparked questions about future development at the site.
“Phnom Penh authorities plan to provide 6-metre-by-12-metre plots of land ... for residents who volunteer to move there,” Seng Ratanak said.
Kong Keang, 48, who lost his home in the fire, said he had heard of plans to develop the area, but that he did not believe residents were being offered sufficient compensation.
“The authorities want us to volunteer to receive more than US$8,000 per family or agree to receive a 6-metre-by-12-metre plot of land in Kandal province,” he said. “Now, we are very concerned because the authorities can use [the fire] as an excuse to evict us to another place.”
Despite their reluctance to leave their homes, some residents may have few options.
Sen Sareth, 31, said she had operated a store in the community, but that it had been destroyed along with her home in the blaze on Monday night.
“The fire destroyed all of my property and my house,” she said tearfully, with her 7-year-old son at her side. “Now I need food and some money to reopen my business and support my family.”