A fire sparked by incense burned for Chinese New Year swept through some 33 homes in central Phnom Penh on Friday, displacing about 55 families, police officials said.
More than 1,000 people gathered in Daun Penh district to watch as the municipal fire department struggled to contain the blaze, which started at about 10:30 am on Street 15 and Street 144 and was nearly extinguished by about 2 pm.
Residents struggled to salvage their belongings. At one point a suspected looter was apprehended by an angry crowd, though he was arrested by police and taken away from the scene shortly after.
Sok Sovannara, first deputy commander of the fire department, said eight fire trucks were used, one of which was donated by the Outreach Emergency Service Program, a volunteer group made up of paramedics and firefighters from the US.
“Without that truck, the four-story building would have collapsed,” he said, adding that the donated truck could blast water considerably higher than the department’s other vehicles.
Andy Graham, a firefighter and paramedic with the program, who has been providing first aid training in Phnom Penh in recent days, was at the scene.
Graham said the fire seemed to have started in the middle of the block of buildings and then spread out.
Some of the hoses used during the operation appeared to leak.
Graham noted that the fire department lacks such necessities as an established water supply, hoses, nozzles and breathing equipment.
“The difficulty is the limited resources,” he said. “They’re doing a hell of a job with the resources they have available.”