More than 1,000 stalls and shops were destroyed in an overnight fire at a market in Stung Treng City, causing about $1 million in property damage, local police said on Friday.
The fire started at about 10 p.m. on Thursday and burned for some five hours before firefighters were able to bring it under control, gutting the Thmar market in Stung Treng commune, said city police chief Chhuk Kumal, adding that fire trucks had to be called from the neighboring provinces of Ratanakkiri and Kratie to assist local police.
“When the fire trucks arrived at the scene, it was difficult to get inside because the fire had spread to all four gates, so we used an excavator to clear the gates, and the excavator destroyed some of the stores,” he said.
Mr. Kumal said the market was completely destroyed, putting the total value of damaged property at about $1 million. He said the cause of the fire was still unclear, but that police, military police and provincial authorities were investigating.
“Now, the provincial authorities are having a meeting to discuss two new possible locations for the vendors to restart their businesses: at the riverside or on a football pitch,” he added.
Suth Ratana, who sold clothing and shoes at the market, said she had lost about $80,000 worth of merchandise in the blaze, and that she hoped the government would consider compensating the vendors.
She added that the electricity at the market—which is privately owned by a local businessman— was turned off at the end of the day on Thursday, leading some vendors suspect that the fire was started intentionally. This suspicion was bolstered by the fact that the first sellers to arrive back at the market after hearing about the fire saw three separate parts of the building burning.
“I’m sure the fire happened from people setting it, because every night at 6 p.m. the electricity is shut off, so how could an electrical short circuit happen?” she said.