Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Cambodia launches investigation into stampede that left 378 dead

A crowd of Cambodians are pushed onto a bridge on the last day of celebrations of a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The authorities in Cambodia have launched an investigation into the stampede that left at least 378 people dead and hundreds more injured when festival revellers were trapped for hours in a deadly crush on a bridge.

As the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, apologised to the Cambodian people for Monday's tragedy, survivors described how they became caught in huge crowds of the dead and living. Police sprayed people with water to allow them to drink as they struggled to disentangle themselves from the crowds. Tomorrow has been declared a day of national mourning.

Moeurn Piseth Sathya (15), one of scores of people being treated at Phnom Penh's Preah Ket Mealea Hospital, said: “I felt that I would die because I couldn't breathe at all. Nobody could breathe.”

The crush happened on the narrow bridge that connects Phnom Penh to the man-made Diamond Island, also known as Koh Pich — a commercial park where thousands of people were celebrating the final day of water festival.

Brightly coloured clothes and shoes remained scattered across the bridge yesterday, while teams continued to search the Bassac River for bodies. Cambodian state television showed gruesome footage of Monday evening's stampede, with piles of convulsing, twisting bodies of people struggling to pull themselves free.

Some reports suggested people may have died after being electrocuted, as they jumped into the river to escape from the crush on the bridge and then tried to pull themselves out of the water with electric cables. But a government spokesman, Phay Siphan, denied this: “The cause was panic, not electrocution,” he told reporters.

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