A government investigation into the collapse of a road next to Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium during a flash flood on Wednesday has concluded that a powerful development company’s adjacent construction site was at fault, officials said on Thursday.
A roughly 20-meter section of Street 161 bordering the sprawling Olympia City development in Prampi Makara district—owned by Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC)—gave way during the midday storm, swallowing a parked Honda SUV and damaging two other cars.
Deputy district governor Heak Chanleang initially claimed that the collapse had occurred when floodwaters eroded a sewer beneath the road, but on Thursday said a team of municipal-level experts had determined that OCIC was responsible for the sinkhole.
“The main problem was caused by the OCIC company, which is constructing the building on the west side of the street,” he said.
According to Mr. Chanleang, an inspection of the area revealed that the company had dredged the site and used metal supports to protect the area against landslides, but that the columns failed to do their job during Wednesday’s downpour.
“They could not stop the water…from seeping through to the pit they had dug for the parking lot,” he said. “It dragged the earth from the edge of the street, and the erosion from the water caused the collapse.”
“The company should be held responsible for the collapse,” he added.
Mr. Chanleang said City Hall had been notified of the results of the inspection, but that he was still awaiting instructions on how to proceed.
Khuong Sreng, a deputy municipal governor, and Sam Piseth, director of the city’s transport department, refused to speak about the case. City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada confirmed that OCIC was at fault but declined to comment further.
Contacted earlier in the day, OCIC project manager Touch Samnang said the firm had volunteered to repair the road.
“If we just wait…and let the state come and do it, it will take a long time. So we will spend a little bit and do it,” he said.
Mr. Samnang, however, denied that the company was at fault, calling the sinkhole a “natural disaster.”
“If it was caused by the construction site, it would have collapsed the earth in the construction site first before it collapsed outside. But inside, our site is in good condition,” he said.
The Olympia City project—a “mixed-use complex” set to house condominiums, shops and offices—has been plagued by accidents. Construction on the site was stalled for several days in 2014 after a woman was fatally impaled by a rod that fell from an under-construction building as she drove past on a motorbike.
Moeun Tola, head of labor rights group Central, who previously led a construction workers’ union, said stronger enforcement of regulations in the booming construction sector could easily prevent such accidents.
“It happens again and again,” he said. “We see the weakness of the system.”
(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)
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