A large fire ripped through Chak Angre Leu commune in Meanchey district Wednesday afternoon, leaving hundreds homeless and the surrounding neighborhood in pandemonium.
Chaos reigned on National Road 2 below Monivong Bridge as six fire trucks attempted to weave through a stand-still traffic snarl of cars, motorbikes and residents carrying their furniture and belongings through the street.
“We need to get water to the fire, but the trucks can’t move because of all the people,” said Chea Sim, a fireman directing traffic.
Fire trucks, unable to approach the alleys surrounding the wooden houses, fought the fire from
25 meters away, on the sidewalks of Route 2.
Commune police said the fire began at 2:45 pm in the wooden house of Srun Soeun, 45, and spread to demolish 33 homes. Police did not state the cause of the fire, but neighbors and officials cited the incense frequently used in the home as a possibility.
Residents said the fire quickly engulfed stilt houses and large homes despite their use of water buckets. At 3 pm, clouds of black smoke could be seen for kilometers.
Garment workers rushed from nearby factories to protect their homes. Many women still wore their green Tack Fat Garment Factory vests hours later.
“My wife called me at 2:50 pm to help save our house,” said Koy Kokoup, whose home was unharmed but under a cloud of smoke. “We found this safe area ourselves,” he said, pointing to his wife next to a pile of belongings on a sidewalk.
The setting was more subdued at Wat Chak Angre Leu, where monks’ residences were filled floor to ceiling with mattresses.
Crying women and children sat upon waist-level piles of packed suitcases, pillows, televisions, stereo equipment and bicycles, while men continued carrying their belongings through the streets. Some women appeared to be in shock.
The fire began to die down around 4 pm.