Blaze Destroys 44 Homes in Chamkar Mon District

Yet another large-scale fire in Phnom Penh destroyed homes and livelihoods Wednesday afternoon. The blaze destroyed 44 houses in Cham­kar Mon district, leaving 129 families without shelter and most, if not all, of their belongings. It was the sixth serious fire in Phnom Penh in less than two weeks.

The fire at Village 5 in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune began about 1 pm and took about an hour and a half for fire crews to extinguish, District Governor Lo Yuy said.

Fighting the fire was complicated, Lo Yuy said, as the home where the blaze began was locked and the owners were believed to be traveling for Khmer New Year.

Neighbor Heng Chanthorn, 46, said locals who spotted the fire tried to kick down the door of the locked house.

“We tried to get in, but we could not,” he said.

Access to the burning houses was also an issue for fire trucks: A concrete-and-brick wall had to be destroyed so that firefighters could get their hoses to the fire, said Ouch Sokhon, Chamkar Mon district police chief.

In all, men using 17 fire trucks and 82 water tankers worked together to douse the flames, said Sok Vannara, municipal fire bureau deputy chief. The crews came from the Interior Ministry, City Hall, the military police and petroleum company Sokimex.

With homes tightly packed together in Phsar Doeum Thkov commune, residents panicked about the possibility of the fire spreading. Some brushed away tears as they rushed to cart TVs, dishes and piles of clothing to safety.

Phim Sovanna, 34, said she lost all of her belongings and $500. “I saw smoke right in front of my house,” she said. “I could not take anything.”

Another resident, Hak Sreang, said the experience was paralyzing.

“I was too frightened so I could not take anything,” he said, pointing to what remained of his wooden house. “I don’t have anything anymore. I lost [it] all.”

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