Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 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, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing at least 17 people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over a bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A crowd of Cambodians are pushed onto a bridge on the last day of celebrations of a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In this Nov. 23, 2010 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Cambodian police officials examine the bridge where a stampede took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital Monday night, leaving more than 330 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Lei Baisong) ** NO SALES **
A crowd of Cambodians are pushed onto a bridge on the last day of celebrations of a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
An injured Cambodian is carried by visitors after a stampede onto a bridge at an accident site during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Cambodian Military Police move the bodies of a stampede victims to a truck in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital Monday night, leaving more than 330 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Lei Baisong) ** NO SALES **
The shoes and belongings of Cambodians, who died in a stampede, cover a bridge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing over three hundred people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Philip Heijmans)
Cambodian police officers stand behind a barricade at the site where people stampeded during a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during the festival in the Cambodian capital, leaving over three hundred dead and scores injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodian relatives of a stampede victim cry in front of their sister's body at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital, leaving over three hundred dead and scores injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A Cambodian woman looks for her missing relative at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital, leaving at least 349 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
An Australian firefighter checks for the pulse of a Cambodian man, who died in a stampede on a bridge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing over three hundred people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Philip Heijmans)
The bodies and belongings of Cambodians, who died in a stampede, lie on a bridge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital Monday night, leaving more than 330 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Philip Heijmans)
Cambodians relatives of victims weep at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital, leaving at least 349 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
An Australian firefighter checks for a pulse of a Cambodian man, who died in a stampede, on a bridge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing over three-hundred people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Philip Heijmans)
Injured visitors seek help after a stampede onto a bridge at an accident site during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Injured visitors are helped by police after a stampede onto a bridge during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
An injured visitor is carried by Cambodian police and another visitor after a stampede onto a bridge at an accident site during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Injured Cambodian visitors are helped after a stampede onto a bridge at an accident site during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Police officers and a fellow visitor assist an injured Cambodian after a stampede onto a bridge at an accident site during the last day of celebrations of the water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. Thousands of people celebrating a water festival on a small island in a Cambodian river stampeded Monday evening, killing many people, a hospital official said. Hundreds more were hurt as the crowd panicked and pushed over the bridge to the mainland. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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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