Revelers had a lucky escape Sunday evening when a 60-meter stretch of Phnom Penh’s riverfront promenade tumbled into the Tonle Sap river behind the Imperial Garden Villa & Hotel. The riverbank collapse tore 20 meters inland, sending the promenade’s ornate embankment wall and paving stone path into the river at around 8:15 pm, witnesses and local officials said.
Heavy rains in the early hours of Tuesday morning compounded the damage, said Meas Chantha, chief of the municipality’s riverbank and flood protection unit.
Built in 2001, the section of riverbank that collapsed received minor repairs last year, Meas Chantha said, adding that strong currents and whirlpools were responsible for the bank’s erosion.
“It’s because of whirlpools and the flow of the river changing every year,” he said.
Chaktomuk commune police Chief Chea Rithy said no one was hurt by the collapse but a motorcycle was lost.
Though he lost his motorbike, 24-year-old Bun Sunnaroath said he was lucky to have saved his own life.
“If we were late running away, we would have been killed in the collapse,” Bun Sunnaroath said, recounting how he and his friends started to run when they heard a loud cracking noise emanate from the ground.
In January, a 90-meter stretch of Tonle Sap riverbank opposite Phsar Chas collapsed. The bank had been repaired in 2003 and 2005, but collapsed again despite the efforts of municipal engineers and the Mong Reththy Group, and $800,000 in construction fees.
“The renovation at this time, Khmers cannot do it. There is only [Japan International Cooperation Agency] that can do it,” Mong Reththy said by telephone on Tuesday.
Following the riverbank’s second collapse, which occurred after his company completed $350,000 worth of repairs in 2003, Mong Reththy said his company did its best to comply with the construction plan designed by the municipality’s technical experts.
However, the repairs, which were completed in June at a cost of $450,000, only lasted until January, when the 90-meter stretch fell into the river.