Construction May Be Behind Riverbank Collapse

The collapse of a large section of Tonle Sap riverbank that left dozens of Phnom Penh families homeless on Tuesday may have been triggered by unauthorized homebuilding, officials said Wednesday.

“Under the soil on the riverbank there is a lot of trash, and it cannot stand heavy things like houses…so it caused the soil to slide into the river,” said Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and meteorology, at a news conference Wednes­day morning.

Lim Kean Hor also disputed claims that the collapse may have been the result of sands being pumped from the riverbed, noting that companies have no permission to pump sand in that area.

At least 39 stilt homes were destroyed when a 60-meter stretch of riverbank crumpled about 3 pm Tuesday in Russei Keo district. No casualties were reported.

The government has offered a local school as a temporary shelter for the displaced families, many of whom lost all of their belongings along with their homes.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said officials are searching for more permanent housing for the families and for others still living along the riverbank.

“They cannot stay there,” Kep Chuktema said of the riverbank residents. “We don’t know when it will collapse again.”

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