A Cham Muslim fisherman in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district was on Wednesday coming to terms with the prospect of life as a widower and single father after his wife and one of his daughters were crushed to death when their stilt house collapsed in strong winds on Tuesday night.
Mout Saly, 30, survived the collapse along with his son Saly Hanifi, three, and his six-month-old daughter. His 29-year-old wife, Him Tikeas, and five-year-old daughter, Saly Maiyan, perished.
“My wife and my older daughter were killed by a stone pillar and the structure of the house when it fell down in a strong wind and heavy rain,” Mr. Saly said.
His older daughter and son were sleeping in a hammock downstairs during the storm. As the wind picked up, he felt the house shake from upstairs. His wife went to rouse the children and, as she did, the pillars gave way, tipping the house over.
“My wife had bruises on her whole face; her face, her neck bones, and her back were broken. My older daughter’s right side was broken and my son’s forehead was injured,” Mr. Saly said.
His wife had thrown herself over her daughter to try and protect her.
Once the bodies were extricated, the burials were swift, in accordance with Islamic custom. Now, the small village of Prek Raing—which occupies five stilt houses that hug a remote part of the Tonle Sap riverbank in Prek Tasek commune—has been left reeling by the tragedy.
One of the four houses still standing had part of its roof ripped away. Others are precariously constructed—one sits on wooden stilts that jut out of concrete pillars, similar to those that gave way on Tuesday night.
Hundreds of houses have already been damaged or completely destroyed in storms around the country this year.
Keo Vy, deputy director of the national disaster management committee’s information department, said strong winds have killed eight people and destroyed 490 houses since January.
More than 1,200 houses were destroyed in storms last year.
Now, Mr. Saly is trying to focus on the future. He says he has no money to rebuild the house his family built and lived in for 10 years without incident.
“I need help from locals and people overseas to help my family, because I am very poor,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)