RCAF Identifies Causes of B’bang Explosion

A combination of dangerously high room temperature and the hap­hazard storage of aging ar­til­lery shells and TNT powder triggered Thurs­day morning’s massive explosion at an RCAF am­mu­ni­tions depot in Battambang town that left six dead and more than 20 injured, a senior RCAF official said Fri­day. “Dozens of kinds of ammunition were inappropriately stored in the warehouse,” said Bun Seng, commander of RCAF Division 5, re­porting on the findings of an investigating committee headed by RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Kun Kim. “We knew the warehouse lacked proper technical specifications and that some artillery shells were stored in an anarchic fashion,” Bun Seng said. He added that RCAF had no other place to store the 50 tons of ammunition that were destroyed in the blast. He said the ammunition was not kept on shelves, but was simply stored in a large pile. Bun Seng, who questioned some 50 soldiers over the blast, said no soldiers were among those killed and only three were injured. “All the ammunition was completely destroyed. The CMAC [Cambodian Mine Action Center] and our ammunition experts are working together to destroy some remaining shells. They cannot be used yet still pose a danger if not destroyed,” he said. “We have created a joint group to consider paying compensation to all the victims and their property,” said Battambang provincial police Chief Chuop Pothearith on Sunday. Fourteen homes were des­troyed in the blast and subsequent detonations that left more than 1,300 artillery shells scattered as far away as Phnom Sam­pov—10 km away from Bat­tam­bang town.

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