Cambodia stampede: at least 339 dead

2010-11-22 21:59
People lying among the unconscious or dead, reach for assistance after the Cambodia bridge stampede. (AFP)

People lying among the unconscious or dead, reach for assistance after the Cambodia bridge stampede. (AFP)

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Phnom Penh - A stampede on a bridge in Cambodia's capital killed at least 339 people late on Monday and injured nearly as many after thousands panicked on the last day of a water festival, authorities and state media said.

Witnesses said the stampede began after several people were electrocuted on a small bridge connecting Phnom Penh to nearby Diamond Island. Most either drowned in a tributary of the Tonle Sap lake or were trampled to death, authorities said.

State television said at least 240 of the dead were women, citing reports from two hospitals.

Prime Minister Hun Sen apologised for the disaster and ordered an investigation as television footage showed relatives crying over the bodies of the dead piled up on each other.

"This is the biggest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime," he said, referring to the murderous Khmer Rouge regime whose agrarian revolution in 1975 killed an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia under the command of Pol Pot.

Hun Sen urged the country to remain calm and ruled out terrorism as a cause for the catastrophe, which took place on the third and final day of the Bon Om Touk water festival.

"It needs further investigation," he said.

Diamond Island, a small island owned by a local bank, is equipped with newly built conference and exhibition centres, restaurants and entertainment areas.

It is popular among women shoppers, especially during the water festival when retailers offer discounts on clothing and other goods. Many of the victims had attended a concert and were returning home to the city when the stampede started.

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Narouth told Reuters that "many people had died in the festival" but declined to elaborate during a rescue effort that went on into early Tuesday.
Read more on:    cambodia  |  cambodia stampede
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