Teacher killed in laboratory fire at university

A fire investigator stands in the ashes of a blaze at the University of Health Sciences
A fire investigator stands in the ashes of a blaze at the University of Health Sciences. Heng Chivoan

Teacher killed in laboratory fire at university

Tragedy prompts prime minister to call for private sector to contribute to fire safety

A teacher was killed yesterday when a fire broke out at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) in Phnom Penh, prompting Prime Minister Hun Sen to call on the private sector to improve fire safety.

Laboratory teacher Huy Seab, 32, was setting up his second-floor laboratory at the university on Monivong Boulevard when the blaze broke out about 6:30am, according to his sister Em Soksopisey, 18, who said flammable chemicals, including a 90-litre container of alcohol, were stored in the room.

“The fire … might have been caused by gas mixed with alcohol,” said Soksopisey, a business administration student at the university.

“Some people said that when it happened my brother yelled ‘help me’, but when the gas exploded no one could help him.”

Phnom Penh Fire Service deputy director Sok Vannra said the initial cause of the blaze, which was confined to the small laboratory, was still being investigated.

He said two fire trucks with 12 firefighters arrived within 10 minutes and doused the fire in five minutes but Seab – who may have been trying to extinguish the blaze himself – could not be saved.

Shortly after the blaze, Prime Minister Hun Sen in a speech called on the private sector to participate in efforts to reduce fires, adding that Friday’s tragedy may have been preventable.

“I hope the private sector can help in putting out fires whenever they happen in factories, enterprises, companies or hotels,” Hun Sen said while speaking at a Cambodian Red Cross event.

“This kind of situation should not happen,” he said of Seab’s death.

“If there is a water system there, it could be used to put out fire and save the life.”

UHS Rector Saphon Vathanak said the university was waiting on the police investigation, but added that the incident was “just an accident” before hanging up.

Soksopisey described her brother as kind and generous. She said the family left yesterday to arrange his Seab’s funeral in his home village in Preah Sihanouk province.

“I still can’t believe this has happened to my brother – he is really polite and always happy. He was a good teacher. Everyone respected him – he never had an argument with another.”

Hun Sen said the government was finding money to equip more than 200 fire trucks for provincial police, and encouraged private businesses such as factories and hotels to buy their own, noting there was no import tax on fire trucks.

Hun Sen added: “The private sector should have firefighters and … workplaces [should be] equipped with water installations for fire trucks so that, whenever a fire happens, fire fighters can take water there because in some places there is no water.”

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth