During a brief rainstorm yesterday, three of the five 50-by-15-meter billboards on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva peninsula toppled to the ground, injuring a woman and her child as well as damaging several buildings and two trucks.
This event was the second time in a month that some of the riverside billboards had collapsed.
Residents expressed anger yesterday that authorities did not take more steps to prevent the collapse since officials had had clear warning since mid April, when two of the 10 metal columns supporting a sign snapped in two during a violent storm.
Yesterday at about 12:30 pm, wind snapped and bent the large metal columns holding three billboards, which are owned by Moon Media, blowing one on top of a woman riding her daughter to school on a bicycle.
“We have lived in fear since the first time a billboard collapsed, but no one thought to take it down. No one cared about the villagers’ safety,” said Kim Maly, the 40-year-old owner of a grocery store struck by a billboard yesterday.
Sos Mat, a Chroy Changva commune councilor, said he too was afraid of the 50-by-15-meter structures, but that the decision to erect the billboards happened in City Hall and he did not have the power to stop it.
“I am so sad and sorry that the governor did not remove it after the first time it collapsed. If they had, it would not have caused bad injuries and damage to residents’ homes,” he said.
Moon Media owner San Kwan could not be reached yesterday.
The main victim of yesterday’s accident, Sok Channary, 37, sustained injuries to her head, including a large gash, while her daughter was only slightly injured.
As she waited for an ambulance yesterday, she said she wanted the billboards to be torn down to protect residents from further accidents.
“I did not expect the billboards to fall down on me while I was riding with my daughter,” she said, adding that she would demand compensation. “Now I feel pain over half my body.”
The billboard that struck Ms Channary spanned the street yesterday covered with crumpled metal sheets. A tarp, printed with a liquor advertisement, draped over trees, telephone poles and buildings.
Two other fallen boards, placed farther away from the street, landed on a grass field.
In November, deputy municipal Cabinet chief On Neang said he was confident in the strength of the billboards.
“We are not afraid that it will fall down,” Mr Neang said at the time.
Yesterday, Mr Neang said he was unaware of the collapse even hours after it happened.
“I have not learned about the collapse,” he said. “I will ask for the recommendations from high officials first on what we will do to the company…. The company will have to respond for all damages and injuries.”
Chin Por, the municipal director of commercial advertising, defended the municipality, saying it had taken steps to ensure the boards’ safety but that ultimately responsibility fell to Moon Media.
“We made sure of the safety of how they built the billboards and that they were built expertly,” he said. “We warned the company to be careful in constructing the billboards because it is the rainy season.”