Five Killed in Bavet City Nightclub Fire

Five people were killed early Monday morning after an electrical fault sparked a fire that engulfed a nightclub in the eastern border town of Bavet, police said.

Keo Kong, Bavet City police chief, said the fire began at the Star club in Bavet commune at about 3 a.m. after an excessive amount of lights and speakers caused a short circuit, which ignited an area next to the dance floor.

“The fire destroyed 90 percent of the club…and killed five people and injured one man,” Mr. Kong said.

“This was not caused by carelessness, but because of an electrical short circuit because there were too many lights,” he added.

Mr. Kong identified those killed as Kem Khim, 23; Kheng Saran, 26; Mam Rath, 34; Prak Peng, 18; and Prak Loy, 19.

The injured man, Mao Manith, 30, was transferred to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh on Monday morning.

Mr. Kong said all six victims were employees of Star.

“There were many ways in and out,” he said. “I do not know why they could not escape. If they survived, we could ask them why.”

According to Mr. Kong, two fire trucks and about 60 firefighters fully extinguished the blaze by 1 p.m. Monday.

However, a Bavet commune police official involved with the investigation, who declined to provide his name, said there was only one exit from the club, which was engulfed in flames that prevented the victims from escaping.

“When the club was on fire, some people escaped while others were stuck in the fire since there was only one way out and it was on fire,” he said.

“It appeared they suffocated in the smoke near the entrance since they could not find their way out.”

The police official also said it was difficult for firefighters to put out the fire since the road leading to it was big enough for only one truck.

Keo Sokhorn, a deputy Bavet City police chief, also said the victims likely died from smoke inhalation.

Mr. Manith, the victim who survived, was unable to speak Monday afternoon while lying in a Calmette Hospital bed with bandages covering his face, arms and legs.

At Mr. Manith’s side, Thea Rith, his uncle-in-law, said the family had brought Mr. Manith to the hospital Monday morning and were still waiting for doctors to give an update on his condition.

“He has burns on his face, hands, stomach…and knees,” Mr. Rith said. “He told us that he used his T-shirt to cover his face and ran through the fire…and five of his friends were still in the fire.”

Mr. Rith said that Star club said it would pay for Mr. Manith’s treatment because it has insurance.

Contact information for the owners of the club was not available Monday.

In a similar incident in November, four Cambodians and an Australian man were killed after an electrical fire destroyed the Hip Hop Restaurant & Discotheque in Siem Reap City.

Siem Reap police said in December that they closed their investigation into the fire without making any arrests after they declared it an accident.

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