Ammunition Blast Damaged Hundreds of Homes

The massive explosion at a RCAF ammunition depot in Bat­tambang town last week either de­stroyed or severely damaged 157 homes in four villages, and 239 other homes were damaged but are still habitable, according to a survey conducted this week by commune officials and a local NGO.

Five people were killed in the blast and 10 others seriously in­jured, while 20 people suffered mi­nor injuries, said Nou Dalin, a so­cial worker with the NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak who accompanied the commune officials.

On March 31, the initial blast and fire set off hours of secondary explosions that showered about 1,300 artillery shells and other mu­nitions as far away as 10 km from the RCAF depot. The RCAF investigating committee had attributed the explosion to haphazard storage, rising temperature, aging shells and TNT powder.

The families of the five villagers who died in the blast each re­ceived 1 million riel ($250) and one ton of rice to be served at the cremation ceremonies, Battam­bang Governor Prach Chan said Tuesday.

In addition, 20 of the injured re­ceived 300,000 riel ($75), he said. The donations were made by the Ministry of Defense, Prach Chan said.

The provincial government has formed a working group to study the situation and assess the funds needed to rebuild homes, he ad­ded.

The area affected by the blast is an especially poor neighborhood of Battambang town, where people without land have settled, said Jean-Christophe Sidoit of Phare Ponleu Selpak.

The NGO, which provides shelter and education to vulnerable children and operates a trained circus troupe, will hold a fundraising event in Phnom Penh on Thurs­day evening to help rebuild peoples’ homes in Battambang.

With cooperation from Amrita Performing Arts and Sovanna Phum Art Association, Phare Ponleu Selpak’s professional circus troupe will present “From 4 to 5,” a new circus theater-style show, at 7:30 pm at the theater of the Royal University of Fine Arts, North Campus.


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