Fire, Grenade Mar End of Water Festival

This year’s Water Festival ended late Wednesday as the estimated 1.5 million revelers who visited Phnom Penh crammed the city’s roads on their way out of town. But as the festival came to a close, the revelry was punctuated by a grenade scare and a raging fire that lit up the night sky.

A Soviet-made grenade was found suspended by a plastic cord under the stage of the TV-Bayon-sponsored concert in the Tonle Bassac area of Phnom Penh, Tonle Bassac commune Police Chief Ouch Sokhon said.

The grenade was found, still with its pin in place, at around 9:20 pm, Ouch Sokhon said, causing some concert-goers to flee the area.

Since the grenade was not armed, it was not removed for nearly two hours because most of the concert-goers were not alerted to its presence and police did not want to disturb the festivities, he said.

Ouch Sokhon said that police did not have a suspect in mind, but that it was probably an act of someone who had a complaint with the station.

Meanwhile, nine shop houses in a market in the Lvea Em district of Kandal province went up in flames after a man accidentally ignited some gasoline with which he was attempting to refuel his generator.

Boeng Khoeurn, Lvea Em district police chief, said that the blaze started when Suo Chrib, 25, splashed some gasoline on his running generator’s spark plug. The fire, which could be seen from Phnom Penh’s riverside area, swept through homes and a small market in Arey Ksath commune before it was extinguished.

There were no fatalities as a result of the fire, but Suo Chrib was hospitalized for burns, police said.

Elsewhere in the city, traffic police reported 11 serious accidents during the three-day festival. There was one fatality and 16 injuries, eight of them critical. Early Thursday morning, however, two were killed on Route 2 in a traffic accident, said Chev Hak, deputy chief of the investigation department of the Municipal Traffic Police.

Traffic congestion was also at issue during this year’s Water Festival.

Phnom Penh can accommodate an estimated 4,000 parked cars on any given day, but there were around 10,000, Chev Hak said.

“Every corner of the city had traffic jams because the drivers from the countryside did not understand how to [properly] park their cars in the city,” he said.

A traffic jam on National Route 6A and the Japanese bridge persisted for some 20 hours Wednes­day, finally clearing at 4 am, said Dangkao district Police Chief Ly Lay.

“It is very strange that this year there were so many festival-goers from the provinces coming to Phnom Penh for Water Festival,” he said.


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