Little Assistance for Those Left Homeless by Phnom Penh Blaze

Phnom Penh residents whose homes burned to the ground in a blaze likely sparked by an exploding electrical wire said they have received food and $25 from a local charity, but are hoping for additional financial assistance to replace thousands of dollars in lost property.

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Firetrucks arrive to put out a fire in Srah Chak commune in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Wednesday afternoon. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

The fire next to the Japanese Friendship bridge in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune destroyed 45 densely packed wooden shacks on Wednesday afternoon, but no one was injured, district governor Sok Penhvuth said. He said authorities believe it was caused by an exploding electrical wire.

The Red Cross, an international charity whose local arm is headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany, arrived at the site on Thursday morning and gave out donations, motorbike taxi driver Chov Moeng said

“I received half a kilo of rice, a mosquito net, 12 packs of fish sauce, 12 packs of soy sauce and 12 cans of canned fish,” said Mr. Moeng, 53, who salvaged his motorbike, but lost other belongings he valued at about $3,000.

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People search through rubble on Thursday afternoon. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

“They also gave me 100,000 riel,” or about $25, he said.

Met Measpheakdey, a City Hall spokesman, confirmed the Red Cross gave donations to those who lost their homes, and said on Friday that the municipality also would like to provide assistance.

“The next few days, the Daun Penh district authority will bring an additional initial donation,” he said. “I am not sure what…the donation will be.”

Tin Sok Ly, a 52-year-old baker who helped clear rubble on Thursday, estimated the loss of his belongings at $7,000, but said the figure did not include the value of the house.

He said he had been at home baking when he heard people yelling outside and saw flames. The fire quickly spread to his house, and he rushed to carry to safety his 12-year-old son, who has polio.

In a separate blaze in Siem Reap City at 2 a.m. on Thursday, a fire that authorities also attributed to an explosive electrical wire destroyed 137 stalls at Langkar Market in Slakram commune, an official said.

The burned shops covered about 70 percent of the market’s stalls, city police chief Tith Narong said on Thursday.

The market had caught fire before, but people were able to put it out quickly, as it had happened during the day, he said. “This time it happened when people were asleep.”

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