Three Die in K Speu House Fire as Firefighters Fail to Respond

A mother and two of her sons were killed as a fire ripped through their home in Kompong Speu province on Wednesday evening, according to local officials, who said the cause of the blaze remained unclear.

Khim Mut, 45, and two of her sons, Soeun Long, 19, and Soeun Lav, 11, died in the blaze in Phnom Sruoch district’s Maha Saing commune, which started at about 10:30 p.m. and was only extinguished at about 8 a.m. Thursday, according to commune police chief Su Sophon. A third son, Soeun La, 14, managed to escape out a window with burns to his legs, he said. 

“We heard the cries of the victims as they called for help but nobody could because it was a big fire,” Mr. Sophon said, adding that arson had not been ruled out.

“We still do not know the real reason for the fire yet, but we suspect somebody could have burned the house down or there could have been an explosion due to faulty electronics,” he said.

With the province’s only fire engine failing to arrive at the scene, Mr. Saing said local residents and police officers were left to fight the flames.

“About 100 villagers and local police officers tried to put out the fire, but it just became stronger and stronger,” he said. “I did not see any fire trucks to put out the fire. I don’t know why they didn’t come to help.”

Sek Heng, provincial police chief for the fire department, who arrived at the scene halfway through the night, said he did not send the fire engine because he did not receive information about the fire until the house was already partially destroyed.

“When we got the information the fire had already destroyed 50 percent of the house so we can’t do anything,” Mr. Heng said.

“The accident is far away from our office and we had only one fire truck, what can we do?” he added. “We requested to the National Police Commissariat earlier this year for three or four fire trucks, but we have not received a response yet.”

Interior Minister Sar Kheng outlined plans last month for a new national fire department and the creation of a fire station in each of the country’s nearly 200 districts by next year.

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