Fire Victims Worry Over Losses, Relocation Relocating

Families from the burned-out squatter neighborhood behind the Bassac Theater returned Tuesday to find what remained of their former residences .

But for approximately 1,853 households, Monday afternoon’s fire left little.

One couple, who work as tailors, said they lost 20 sewing machines. They worried about the government’s relocation plan, remembering complaints about the resettlement provided to victims after a squatter neighborhood fire on nearby Sotheros Boulevard seven months ago.

“I am not confident that we will be resettled in a place where we will have business for our tailor shop and schools for our kids,” said Chay Lay An, 38.

According to Tonle Bassac Deputy Police Chief Uch Sophon, relocation areas have been set up in Dangkao and Russei Keo districts. The relocation was originally scheduled to take place early next year to make way for a new government road through the now burned-out area.

There was talk among victims that the government may have used the disaster to its own advantage. “I don’t know if it was a plan by the government or if it burned by itself, but most people are saying the government had something to do with it,” said Piseth Mao, 22, a student whose grandmother lost a house in the fire.

There remain conflicting re­ports about possible deaths. The municipality stated at a meeting Tuesday morning that there were no fatalities.

“That is definitely untrue,” said Yoka Vanopstal from the NGO World Vision, whose organization helps children in the area. She said she had learned that three of the children they worked with had been locked in the house by their mother when she went to the market, and were trapped when the structure caught fire.

Sebastien Marot, director of the NGO Friends, said he found it hard to believe that there had been no fatalities given the number of  elderly and small children living in the area.

Peou Samy, the director of the Cambodian Disaster Relief Agen­cy, said he knew some children were being treated for burns. He also said that more than 100 families had already moved to the new relocation areas.

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