With most of the rubble cleared from Phnom Penh’s Phsar Chas, a local official on Tuesday told the vendors whose shops and merchandise were destroyed by a fire that raged for more than two hours at the historic market Monday morning to begin the process of rebuilding themselves.
Though there were no casualties, more than 200 stalls were incinerated and many more damaged in the blaze, which started at about 7:30 a.m. and was caused by an electrical fault.
On Tuesday, a charred courtyard was exposed after the city’s sole waste-management company, Cintri, brought in an excavator, trash trucks and more than 30 workers to help clear away debris.
Daun Penh district governor Kouch Chamroeun said the most recent count put the number of stalls destroyed at 205. Their owners spent most of Monday sifting through the ash for the remains of their stock, but on Tuesday, there was little for them to do but watch the cleanup effort.
But they have plenty of work ahead, Mr. Chamroeun said, if they hope to get their businesses up and running again.
“Please…rebuild your stalls yourself, because you will have to wait a long time for the state to help you,” he told the vendors at a press conference at the market, noting that if they begin rebuilding themselves, they could be ready for customers within a month.
“The damage will amount to more than $1.5 million, but we could not have predicted that this fire would happen,” he said. “And there is no law that states the government must compensate you, so how can we compensate you?”
San Sok Luch, a 29-year-old vendor who sold knockoff brandname perfumes, said he lost nearly $10,000 worth of stock in thefire, and had no expectations that City Hall would offer him assistance anytime soon.
“They have said it would take more than four months for them to help us, but I don’t have four months to wait, so I need to rebuild by myself,” he said.