Villagers in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district were yesterday morning picking through the debris of their homes ravaged by a blazing inferno the night before that destroyed at least 16 homes and displaced 18 families.
Prom Yorn, chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Fire Department, said the blaze was the largest of the year so far and required 32 fire trucks to extinguish the flames.
“We had some difficulty battling the blaze because it started during rush hour, with so much traffic on the roads, we had a hard time reaching the homes on fire,” he said.
“The access points were also too narrow, but we were able to drag our fire hoses to the scene.”
Mr Yorn said at least 16 homes were destroyed by the blaze and 18 families were displaced, but noted the cost of the damage had not yet been calculated, nor was an official cause for the fire known.
But Hem Samreth, one of the villagers who lost his home, said many believe a neighbour cooking on a gas stove left it unattended, which led to the fire.
“The location of the fire was so close to my home that I couldn’t save my belongings when it started, I just focussed on saving my four children and grandchildren,” he said.
“I then ran back in and was able to get my television, but it was then stolen outside my home during the chaos.”
Mr Samreth said the fire likely cost him thousands of dollars in lost property and property damage.
He added that the area was also hit by a large fire 10 years ago and that the latest fire brought back painful memories.
Mr Yorn said there have been six fires so far this year, but none as big as Monday night’s inferno, adding that locals in Teuk Thla commune’s Trapaing Chhouk village were lucky to escape unscathed.
Mr Yorn then urged villagers to be more cautious and make sure they worked to prevent fire outbreaks.
“People need to have at least one fire extinguisher in their house as the first step,” he said.
Sen Sok district governor Mov Manith said district authorities and the Cambodian Red Cross were collecting donations to offer to the families affected by the blaze.
“Authorities have not been able to estimate the extent of the damage yet,” he said. “But we are collecting data from each house. The real cause of the fire is also being investigated by experts.”