Train Derails, Spills Fuel in Battambang

Three train cars overturned and spilled 30,000 liters of So­kimex Co gasoline Tuesday morning after a derailment in Battambang province.

No one was hurt, but the fuel spilled into an O’Dambang district field, where it could potentially harm wildlife.

“It’s a big problem for the animals, especially for the food supply,” said Suon Phalla of the Minis­try of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ wildlife protection office. “With food supplies growing from the soil, [wildlife] will eat that food and they will die.”

His office had not been in­formed of the spill, but upon hearing the news Thursday afternoon, he promised an investigation.

Cambodian trains often derail due to the dilapidated railway system. Sometimes ties are stolen for firewood, causing the rails to warp in hot weather. Officials said this derailment was likely caused by de­cayed ties and a warped track.

In August, a woman was seriously injured after a train traveling from Sihanoukvile to Phnom Penh derailed, overturning her train car into a pond.

Sokimex is one of Cambodia’s largest import-export companies, and one of the country’s main fuel suppliers.

Sokimex President Sok Kong said that the company would not spend any money to repair the railway system. Responsibility for that belongs to the government, Sok Kong said.

The number of railway accidents has been decreasing in past years, said Sokhom Pheak­van­mony, director of the Royal Cam­bo­dian Railway Station. There were 52 derailments in 1999, 37 in 2000, and 16 so far this year, Sokhom Pheakvanmony said.

Still, the railway system needs repairs. “The railway is too old to use,” Sokhom Pheakvanmony said. “The railway has not been repaired since the 1960s.”

The government is waiting for loans to repair the system, and Asean nations have been discussing whether a railway system that would run from Singapore to Vietnam would include a branch track through Cambodia.

To repair the railway from Sihanoukville through Phnom Penh to Battambang would cost $100 million, according to a study conducted by the Asian Development Bank in 1994, Sokhom Pheakvanmony said.


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