Cambodia: Stampede tragedy during Water Festival

More than 340 people died and at least 550 were injured during a stampede over a bridge connecting Koh Pich Island (Diamond Island) and Phnom Penh City during the last hour of the last day of Cambodia’s Water Festival.

Azuriel provides an eyewitness account of what happened during that tragic night

…we were just about to cross back to the mainland from the island when the stampede started, and police started cordoning the area off.

spent most of my 4 hours trying to help out, including performing CPR on 4 girls that got fished out of the river … unfortunately only managed to revive 2 of them

From talking to the locals, some of the security and event management staff, and first-hand experience, I gather the following chain of events occurred; not sure these events occurred in this order though, but it's close:

- about 30-odd people were electrocuted (few direct deaths, but many losing consciousness, suffering severe burns) from contact with the metal guard rails on either side of the bridge …
– about a dozen people fainted from the crush of the crowd, heat exhaustion, dehydration, or a combination of these, and fell underfoot …
– Crowd panicked from the electrocutions and surged into a stampede; More people tripped or got pushed over, and got trampled underfoot …
– People started jumping off the bridge into the river below to escape the mob; some were electrocuted climbing over the railings; some died from jumping into shallow water, or missing the water altogether, and landing on the concrete escarpments.
– Curious onlookers surged towards the bridge from both ends trying to find out what was going on. POLICE WERE VERY FORCEFULLY PUSHING BYSTANDERS BACK, USING FISTS, BATONS, PISTOLS, AND PIECES OF METAL PIPING!!!
– Some police near the Koh Pich end of the bridge fired warning shops to try to disperse the crowd, but it only served to set off a 2nd panic, since no-one at that stage knew who was shooting, nor at who or what …
– Around the same time, all the neon lights on the bridge were turned off, along with most of the street lamps along the eastern shore of the island.

ironically, the bayon TV concert a couple of hundred metres away blasted on throughout all of this … … …

Photo from the Facebook page of Sky Pharma

The Sreisaat Adventures in Cambodia also heard that some kind of panic “event” triggered the stampede

Today we woke up to a very somber Phnom Penh.

The whole country is mourning the tragic death of hundreds of people during a stampede that broke out on Monday night. It was the last hour of the last day of what should have been a happy celebration of the Water Festival.

There was confusion as to how the stampede started but, quoting a Khmerican friend's note in his Facebook wall, what credible sources are saying is that some type of event created a “panic” on the newly-built bridge. What kind of event, this we are hoping the query will yield the answers.

I fervently hope that the culprits will be punished, that lessons will be learned so that incidents like this will never happen again. Ever.

LTO Cambodia doesn’t want to blame anyone yet for what happened last Monday

I wish I had something profound to say. I wish I had some great insight to offer. I wish I could say why all this happened.

I wish I could rail against somebody or something. I wish I could put this all on somebody else. Somehow it would seem that might help alleviate the sorrow over this disaster, if only a bit. But at this point we don't know exactly what happened or why. And recriminations, though understandable from those directly affected, are for the rest of us at this point only self-serving and perhaps unfair and damaging.

Khmer Empire criticizes the failure of authorities to prevent this tragedy

We just wonder why this government is so capable to crackdown thousands of demonstrators and evicting the poor people while they are so incompetent so handle such a situation at Koh Pich?

A condolence parade will be held this week; and some useful hotline numbers for those who wish to help the victims

A condolence parade will be held on 25th November from Independence Monument to Koh Pich starting at 5:00pm. Donations, which will be distributed to victims and their family, are accepted through representatives of the 10 universities* in Phnom Penh and will be transferred to H.E. Seang Sophondy official in charge of stampede victims committee. Contact number: 017 58 11 48, 012 288 388

FOR MISSING PERSONS: Info Hotline: 078 7675 60 ~ 74 (15 Lines) Phnom Penh City Hall: 016-866159 / 012-520520 / 016-78888 Ministry of Social Affairs: 012-910000 / 099-860453

A New Mandala reader predicted days before the tragedy that a stampede would probably occur in the bridge

As I crossed the bridge, squeezed in the crammed crowd of mostly families and young Cambodians, I had an overwhelming sense that the children near my feet would be crushed if the crowd surged. When I found cart vendors partially blocking the off ramp I became infuriated and cursed some of them, but the best I could do was manage to force the worst offender to move her cart to the side. It seemed like a hopeless situation. The bridge was too narrow for the crowd.

Cambodia Calling notes that many of those who died came from the provinces who travelled to the capital to enjoy the festivities

Very sad day for Cambodians. As if their lives are not hard enough, the rare chance ordinary Khmers – many from the countryside who come to Phnom Penh to watch the annual boat race – had a chance to rejoice and celebrate, they met with tragedy.

The Cambodian government has said it would compensate 5 million rielsm or USD1250 to the families of each of the dead and 1 million riels each to those injured

Pictures of the stampede tragedy are accessible via KI Media and on Facebook.


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