Police said Sunday that they are investigating the causes of a fire at the Royal University of Fine Arts’ South Campus, which witnesses said destroyed five cars and a wooden workshop full of art equipment.
Police officials held back a crowd of several hundred people as they watched flames leap 15 meters high and listened to several loud explosions from inside the compound during the two-hour blaze.
According to RUFA security guard Sok Sim, the fire started around 10 pm and fire trucks arrived on the scene 10 minutes later.
Oum Chantha, chief of the municipal firefighting police unit, said seven fire trucks with 30 fire fighters had put out the fire by around midnight. The campus was built by the French in the 1910s and is located directly behind the National Museum.
Teruo Jinnai, country representative for the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that although the blaze was regrettable, he was grateful damages were limited.
“All the offices and the classroom buildings were not damaged at all. That was very lucky,” he said. “It was unfortunate, but none of the normal classroom activities will be affected.”
Phan Pheng, Daun Penh district police chief, said police in Chey Chumneah commune are questioning people staying at the RUFA campus about the way the fire started. He added that the cost of the damage to the university was not yet known, and that police have no leads as to how the fire started. Police do not suspect arson, he said.
District governor Sok Sambath said he was present during the fire Friday night and that it was caused by an exploding gas cooker.
RUFA’s North Campus near the French Embassy was exchanged with the Mong Reththy Group, which knocked it down last year so the land could be used to build shops and offices. The firm built a replacement campus in the middle of a field on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.