Six people were killed and 17 injured when a French colonial-era building housing a noodle-making factory collapsed in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district after a pressure cooker exploded early Monday, officials said.
More than 40 people were working and sleeping in the factory when the explosion occurred at around 2 am, collapsing the building and toppling adjacent concrete structures that had been built on and around the factory located behind shop houses in Phsar Kandal I commune.
Two workers are still missing and believed buried beneath the debris and rubble at the site, Daun Penh district police Deputy Chief Yim Socheat said. The two missing men were assigned the job of monitoring the wood-and-coal burning fire on which the pressure cookers rested, Phsar Kandal I commune Chief Kong Rith said.
“The district governor ordered to search for those men under the pile of bricks or to see if the two men escaped from the spot,” Kong Rith said, adding that two of the 17 injured were sent to Calmette Hospital in critical condition.
Factory owners Chea Pheang, 52, and his wife Lim Keang, 46, were killed along with three male workers: Ing Sopheak, 24, Veng Loeuk, 24, Phorn Na, 32, and female worker Ky Ing, 24, police said.
A large pressure cooker used for making noodles exploded, sending boiling water through the factory, said worker Chhet Pach, 26, who lost a brother and a cousin in the accident.
“I heard one of the large pressure cookers explode and at the same time the building collapsed,” Chhet Pach said at Calmette Hospital.
Being treated at Calmette Hospital for burns from the boiling water, Phon Yen, 22, said she was rescued from the rubble after being trapped for 20 minutes.
“I had given up hope that I would live,” she said.
About two dozen family members and workmen labored furiously with small hammers and one large sledgehammer Monday morning to clear the mounds of bricks, mangled steel and wooden beams where the factory once stood.
Rebuilding on and around the colonial-era building added to the breadth of the collapse. At least one concrete walkway had been built between the factory and the adjacent shop houses.
Without any sign of overall coordination or obvious presence of specialized search-and-rescue teams, the workers dug with their hands to search for survivors and valuables. The purchase of two shovels helped their efforts, but work proceeded slowly.
On a number of occasions, workmen called for silence as they strained to listen for the sounds of survivors below the rubble.