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Villagers blame construction for Phnom Penh riverbank collapse

A young boy looks at destruction in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district
A young boy looks at destruction in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district yesterday morning after a riverbank collapsed, sending numerous houses into the water. Vireak Mai

Villagers blame construction for Phnom Penh riverbank collapse

More than 10 houses along the riverbank in Phnom Penh were seriously damaged when an embankment collapsed early on Sunday morning, which residents say was caused by drilling linked to construction.

Workers began drilling a 10-metre segment of the Tonle Sap riverbed in Russey Keo district last week to reinforce earth close to a building project.

Yoeung Thilam, whose family was one of 15 affected, said the ground began to shake before collapsing into the river with families still inside the houses. Some homes were left submerged deep in the water, leaving only metal roofs exposed.

Yesterday morning, villagers erected temporary tents in front of the building site, demanding $7,000 each in compensation for damages.

“The supervisor said if the houses collapsed, they would pay, but now they seem to want to duck away from their responsibilities,” said Ath Rinan, 28, who lives in Russey Keo, and explained that villagers had reported the drilling to authorities before the incident.

Officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Water Resources, said multiple factors, including recent rainfall and unstable ground, composed of loose earth and rotting trash debris, were to blame.

Authorities provided food to victims and sent a technical group to survey the damage. However, they also said that they had warned the community not to build along the riverbank.

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