PHNOM PENH, Nov. 2, (Khmer Times) – A boat capsized in the middle of the Tonle Sap river this afternoon during a practice session in preparation for the Water Festival, but all the people on board were quickly rescued.
Jim Swander, an American expat who observed the accident from the balcony of his Riverside apartment, said the incident took place between 2:30pm and 3pm. Police boats arrived swiftly to pull about 40 people out of the river.
“They were very low in the water. All I was seeing was their heads,” he said about the incident. “In a minute or two you could see the water police arrive. I was just happy that the police got several rescue boats out there almost immediately.”
The Water Festival begins on Wednesday morning with the opening ceremony at the Royal Palace at 8am; the first race begins at 10am.
Swander, who managed to take photos of the accident and the rescue, said that the rowers weren’t wearing life jackets, and he questioned how many of them could swim.
A boat capsized during the Water Festival in 2008, resulting in the deaths of five rowers, and another boat race participant drowned in 2009.
This year, the number of police rescue boats has been increased, according to Long Dimanche, spokesman for Phnom Penh City Hall.