A Japanese man whose restaurant was obliterated during the collapse of a seven-storey building that killed 28 people in Sihanoukville is seeking $50,000 in compensation.
The incident happened on Saturday at about 4am, prompting rescue workers to scour for victims buried beneath the rubble.
The collapse levelled the restaurant and buried owner Arai Tomotaka, his family and staff beneath the debris.
“When the building collapsed, my staff, my family and I were sleeping inside my restaurant,” Mr Tomotaka said, noting that his restaurant was adjacent to the seven-storey building.
“When we were sleeping, the building collapsed and destroyed my restaurant,” he added. “My wife and I tried to stand up, but we were unable to because of the debris covering us.”
Mr Tomotaka said he and his wife escaped first in order to find help for his children and staff.
“After about ten minutes [of escaping], my wife got out, but I went back in to find my son,” he said. “I was concerned about my son because he was sleeping in his room where the most severe damage took place. But my son was alive.”
Mr Tomotaka said he hailed from Japan’s Hokkaido island and that he and his wife Arai Yuko came to Cambodia in 2003. A year later, the couple opened their restaurant.
He said it was lucky that his family and staff were alive, but noted that he lost the restaurant and three motorbikes to the collapse.
“I think that my wife, myself, my staff and their relatives were lucky because no one was seriously injured – some of them were just slightly injured,” Mr Tomotaka said.
“In total, I lost $50,000 because of the collapse,” he added. “I will prepare a lawsuit to demand for compensation from the owner of the [collapsed] building and I think he must address this issue.”
Mr Tomotaka noted that the money will go to the reconstruction of his restaurant.
“I still want to live there for a long time in the future,” he said, noting that 80 percent of his customers were Cambodian.
Sap Rithyvuth, Mr Tomotaka’s landlord, earlier this week said he was shocked when he discovered his property had been levelled by the collapse.
Mr Rithyvuth said when he saw it, he thought about Mr Tomotaka’s family.
“Some of them were injured, but I was happy when the Japanese family and their staff survived,” he said, noting that he will review the damages done to his property.
Mr Rithyvuth said he suspects that the seven-storey building collapsed because there was no foundation and that the builders had constructed too many floors.
“This is carelessness from the Chinese owner of the building,” he said. “Provincial authorities should enforce the law.”
“I think the authorities should include [the Japanese family] as victims because they suffered when the building collapsed,” Mr Rithyvuth added.
Uk Moeun, owner of a cafe, said she is seeking $20,000 in damages after the collapse also affected her shop.
“I will file a complaint against the owner of the seven-storey building because the collapse damaged my shop,” Ms Moeuns said, adding that Mr Tomotaka and his family were good neighbours and did not deserve the incident.
“I think the Japanese family was good because they never had disputes with other neighbours in the village,” she said.
Ms Moeun added that many properties around the seven-storey building were damaged when the collapse occurred.