More than 50 factory workers were injured, one of them seriously, in Svay Rieng province on Monday when a flatbed truck transporting them to an industrial zone overturned, local officials said.
One woman sustained serious chest injuries and was sent immediately to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh, said Ke Rotha, director of the provincial health department, adding that about 50 others were sent to the provincial referral hospital and three more to a private clinic.
“We are worried about the victim that was brought to the hospital in Phnom Penh because her injury could be life-threatening,” Mr. Rotha said. “The victim had serious chest injuries and fractures.”
He added that many of the other injured workers had suffered cracked teeth and broken noses in the accident.
According to witnesses, the truck was veering left and right precariously before it overturned in Svay Rieng City’s Svay Toeur commune about 6:30 a.m., said commune police chief Riem Saroeurn.
“The driver of the truck was just learning to drive,” Mr. Saroeurn said. “The driver also put too many passengers inside the truck and he was not careful with his driving.”
The 30-year-old driver is currently being held at the provincial police station for questioning, he added.
Accidents involving factory workers being ferried to and from work in overloaded trucks happen frequently here, with at least three accidents occurring last year in Svay Rieng province alone.
Khao Sovuth, 40, a truck driver in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, said he must carry at least 70 people each day in order to make a profit. While he collects about $800 each month from his passengers, he said he spends about $500 on petrol.
“Maybe 40 to 50 people would be safer, but I carry about 70 to 80 people,” Mr. Sovuth said, while about as many workers crowded into the back of his open-top truck, clutching the railings. “I do worry about accidents but I am always very careful with my truck.”
Despite the risk of an accident, 22-year-old factory worker Bi Vy said that he would not stop taking the flat bed trucks to work, because a taxi or a shared cab would be more expensive.
“I feel scared because inside the truck, there are always too many passengers and I cannot move,” he said. “But if I take a taxi or a car, it would be too high a cost.”
Ear Chariya, road safety program manager for Handicap International, said the challenge was to keep costs low by finding a balance between what workers can afford and the prices charged by competing truck drivers.
“The workers, they want to get the cheapest price for their commute and the truck companies also want to keep the price low, so they need to accommodate as many people as they can so they can get a higher profit,” Mr. Chariya said, adding that the government should push harder to create a public transportation system that workers can use.