A fire raged through Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on Sunday, decimating more than 370 homes and damaging six factories, residents and officials said.
The blaze began around 11:50 am and was apparently started by villagers cooking with a gas stove on the bank of the Tonle Bassac in Preak Takong village, Chak Angre Leu commune, according to commune Chief Keo Savoeun.
Within minutes it had spread through the crowded, predominantly ethnic Vietnamese neighborhood, because efforts to put out the flames were hampered by the village’s narrow paths, he said Sunday.
“It spread too fast because the adjacent houses were anarchically built, with narrow paths to the riverbank,” Keo Savoeun said.
One man was reported injured in the incident when the roof upon which he was standing collapsed as he and other villagers struggled to extinguish the blaze, Meanchey district Governor Kuch Chamroeun said Sunday.
A woman fell ill from smoke inhalation, he added
“Both of them we have sent to the hospital,” he said.
The fire may have caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the six factories, though officials have not yet assessed the exact amount of the losses, Kuch Chamroeun said.
The Asia Paper factory was completely destroyed, he said.
Other factories affected by the fire were Siam Cement, Kingland Group factory, Hytex Garment factory, Maya Group and San Lei Fung garment factory, he said.
“Only Asia Paper factory was completely burned down, and some others only had a little damage [but] our people lost a lot of their property,” Kuch Chamroeun said.
Fire fighters and villagers using garden hoses, pots and other containers of water extinguished the fire by around 2 pm.
Nheim Soa, 35, who had been living in Preak Takong village since 1979, said she lost her home and all her possessions in the blaze.
“My five children are safe, but all my belongings are now only ashes,” she said, crying. “So now I have an empty hand.”
Resident Kim Sin, 32, said many of the villagers in the area were workers at the neighboring factories and were renting homes there.
Homeowner Ung Heng, 56, said he lost four buildings, two which he rented out and one which he used as a workshop.
“All have been completely burned down,” he said, pointing to a now leveled, blackened area.
“The fire started very fast. A big cloud of smoke closed in around my houses, so we couldn’t take any belongings,” he said.