Seven young girls drowned in Sihanoukville on Tuesday morning after their overloaded wooden boat sank in a reservoir where they had gone to collect water lilies.
Nine children between the ages of 6 and 13 had boarded the boat built for one on the Boeng Prek Tub reservoir in Bei commune at about 9:30 a.m., and it sank 3 meters from the shore, commune police chief Kiev Watha said.
A girl and a boy, both 13, swam to safety, while the other seven drowned, he said.
“No one helped them,” he said. “The other two knew how to swim.”
The boat was completely overloaded, Mr. Watha said. “The boat is small, only 1 meter wide and 3 meters long,” he said. “Only one person is meant to ride in it.”
The children’s parents and neighbors quickly alerted police, but six bodies had already been pulled from the water by the time officers arrived, he said.
The remaining body was found once police joined in the search, he said.
All of the children, including two sisters, were from a community about 500 meters from the lake and would regularly go to play there, Mr. Watha added.
Kol Phally, Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy police chief, said the children’s parents were unaware that they had gone to the lake unattended.
“They didn’t know,” he said. “If they knew, they wouldn’t have let them go in.”
The sinking is the latest incident in a long line of child drownings in the coastal city and throughout Cambodia as a whole.
According to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization, an estimated 1,357 people drowned in Cambodia in 2012—more than half of whom were under the age of 15—making it the leading cause of death in the country among children between the ages of 5 and 14.