Huh! I just saw this story & came here to report on it and to wonder where & how HW is. It's truly horrifying. The last part refers to something HW talked about on here, about the relocation of the poor. Anyone know what thread that was in?
Yahoo! News Over 330 die in stampede at Cambodian festival By SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Sopheng Cheang, Associated Press 34 mins ago
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital Monday night, leaving more than 330 dead and hundreds injured in what the prime minister called the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge.
Some in the panicky crowd — who were celebrating the end of the rainy season on a sliver of land in a river — tried to flee over a bridge and were crushed underfoot or fell over its sides into the water.
Ambulances raced back and forth between the river and the hospitals for several hours after the stampede. Calmette Hospital, the capital's main medical facility, was filled to capacity with bodies as well as patients, some of whom had to be treated in hallways. Many of the injured appeared to be badly hurt, raising the prospect that the death toll could rise as local hospitals became overwhelmed.
Hours after the chaos, the dead and injured were still being taken away from the scene, while searchers looked for bodies of anyone who might have drowned. An Associated Press reporter saw one body floating in the river, and hundreds of shoes left behind on and around the bridge.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his third post-midnight live television broadcast, said that 339 people had been killed and 329 injured. He described the chaos as the biggest tragedy to strike his country since the communist rule of the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies are blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during the 1970s.
He ordered an investigation into the cause of the stampede and declared Thursday would be a national day of mourning. Government government ministries were ordered to fly the flag at half-staff.
Authorities had estimated that upward of 2 million people would descend on Phnom Penh for the three-day water festival, which marks the end of the rainy season and whose main attraction is traditional boat races along the river.
The last race ended early Monday evening, the last night of the holiday, and the panic started later on Koh Pich — Diamond Island — a long spit of land wedged in a fork in the river where a concert was being held. It was unclear how many people were on the island to celebrate the holiday, though the area appeared to be packed with people, as were the banks.
Soft drink vendor So Cheata said the trouble began when about 10 people fell unconscious in the press of the crowd. She said that set off a panic, which then turned into a stampede, with many people caught underfoot.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith gave a similar account of the cause.
Seeking to escape the island, part of the crowd pushed onto a bridge, which also jammed up, with people falling under others and into the water. So Cheata said hundreds of hurt people lay on the ground afterward. Many appeared to be unconscious.
Cambodia is one of the region's poorer countries, and has an underdeveloped health system, with hospitals barely able to cope with daily medical demands.
Koh Pich used to host a slum community, but in recent years the poor have been evicted to make way for high-rise and commercial development, most yet to be realized.
Slowly the truth is coming out, or certainly facts that counter some of the rumours that have been doing the rounds.
1. It was initially said that the first group that fainted on the bridge fainted because of electrocution by live wires. Not true, there were no live wires, in fact the wiring on the bridge is still intact and the lighting was an eery backdrop for the interviews that were later done at the scene. Anybody watching TV can confirm this.
2. The police used water jets as a crowd control tool when the stampede began. Not true, they started pumping water at the crowd that hadn't been able to move for 3 hours (!) and were crying for water.
3. The price gouging is true though. For everything regarding this tragedy prices have gone up.
Most residences in my street have put up little makeshift altars outside their houses to ward of the ghosts of the dead, it's usually a handful of incense sticks stuck into a bunch of bananas. Well, the price of bananas has gone from 1500 riels, about 35 cents, to 5000 riels, 1.25USD. The hospitals were charging 100USD for families to pick up the bodies until the PM said he'd have every hospital staff arrested and tortured if they didn't stop that immediately, it stopped.
Ok, the PM didn't say he'd have them tortured... but he should have.
I think the numbers will go up, maybe double. Apparently masses of people jumped off the bridge, there'll be bodies still stuck in the mud. What a lousy way to die.
Thank God I don't know anybody who lost his life there.
It is a bit heartbreaking here at the office, I don't think I've ever seen it as quiet as now.
Our office is situated on one of the main boulevards going out of town. There's a big crematorium at the end of it. There have been funeral processions going there all morning with a lot of wailing and cymbals etc.
I read that people were trying to push their way on the bridge from both ends. It is unimaginable what it must have been like to be trapped in the middle of the bridge. Jumping was the only chance a lot of them had to survive.
It's another horrifying story...how truly gruesome for all involved.....I just don't understand how these tragedies seem to keep happening - enormous crowds expected at whatever ceremony, happening or festival and people keep dying, crushed, drowned or asphyxiated.. Surely it's not beyond the authorities involved wherever in the world to police these events so people are kept safe? It really has haunted me since I read the reports....
I was in a similar -- but not deadly -- crush once in my life, and it does create a total feeling of panic. It was at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. One of the parades had just finished, so people were trying to leave, but just as many people were arriving from elsewhere for new festivities and the two groups mashed together. It took about 15 minutes for enough people to squeeze around the edges to relieve the pressure.
Once you have been in a crush like that, you never enter a big crowd scene without checking out possible escape routes. And of course some people never want to enter a big crowd again.
Yes, I know what you are saying. Once, back in ancient times as a teenager, I went to see England at the Wembley stadium and got stuck against the enormous railings by the pressure of the crowd. I was struggling to breathe but fortunately a policeman saw me and fought his way to me and dragged me out. It was very frightening and I believe is the reason I am not keen on cities and crowds of people - I'm phobic really....the thought of those poor people dying like that is hideous...
And there's a rumour that says there was a bus accident yesterday on NR6 with 50 dead...
The government has instructed the TV stations to refute this...
More and more little altars coming up in front of every house, that's what superstition does to you, the Khmers seem especially susceptible to this.
My girlfriend immediately knew what this meant (she's superstitious too) when she saw all the broken rice in the streets, the ghosts of the dead aren't happy. They cannot walk on uncooked rice, it burns their feet (strange logic actually, I always thought ghosts float)...
In catastrophes where the bodies are still intact, I have never understood how the total can keep fluctuating like that.
Isn't that because they're taken to different morgues or hospitals? Also, until relatives start reporting people missing and the morgues are checked, it's not known if an unidentified body might be that of a person killed in a given disaster.
And also, missing and presumed dead people turn up after a couple of days after sleeping of their boozy binges. Remember, this was the last day of the biggest festival of the country.
I think all the big shots at the ceremony yesterday were wearing suits, if that was the order of the day they would have been black. Maybe they decided on this because of the presence of international media. The women were all in white though and the lower ranks just wore white shirts.
Here's the latest from the PP Post:
Uncertainty over compensation
As the Kingdom observed a national day of mourning on Thursday and funerals for victims of the Diamond Island stampede took place throughout the country, questions remained about how victims of Monday’s tragedy would be compensated for their suffering.
While the government has released preliminary findings of its investigation into the causes of the incident, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the full inquiry, expected next week, could include further details about the liability for Monday’s disaster.
“We set up an investigative committee. We have to check everything first about the main cause, and who will be responsible,” Khieu Kanharith said. “You have technical studies and legal studies.”
The issue of legal liability is one for which precedent is thin in Cambodian jurisprudence, said Ray Leos, a lawyer and dean of the media and communications department at Pannasastra University.
“The issue of tort law here is very, very much in its infancy,” Leos said. “Tort claims are really very rare here.”
In instances where potential liability exists in criminal or civil cases, Leos noted, disputes are typically settled with out-of-court cash payments.
The government has offered families of victims charitable payments of 5 million riels (US$1,227), while the Royal Family has offered donations of $400 to families of the dead and $200 for the injured.
Diamond Island developer Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation has offered $1,000 to families of victims and $200 to the injured, payments that Diamond Island spokesman Charles Vann was quick to emphasise did not represent an admission of responsibility.
“We are not compensating,” Vann said. “We are just trying to help the community.”
Government officials have been offering payments to victims at City Hall and at local hospitals, where Diamond Island officials were also distributing donations. Some families of victims, however, reported difficulty in securing the promised sums.
“I watched TV and saw that there were people giving money to the Diamond Island victims, but so far, my brother did not receive any money at all,” said Takeo province resident Seng Ung, whose brother was among those injured Monday. “I don’t know how to get this money and I wonder where I can go to get it.”...read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.
Yes, some interesting updates were in the papers. I'll have to recheck though.
Still lots of rumours re the cause of the panic but no proof.
352 dead I think, nobody's going to 'Ghost Island' anymore, vendors there have asked their landlords to waive the rent for the next three months. I think the whole island will die a quiet death, maybe become an enclave for foreigners who don't mind.
There was a big purification ritual there a week later.
The PM was there and the TV crews showed him crying... He also said there would be no further investigation because it was nobody's fault.
Cambodiand believe in ghosts, I'm not kidding. They won't go there anymore, the shops and vendors and restaurants will close. If the owners are lucky foreigners might move there who don't know or care.
There was a very Cambodian story that came to light after the deaths though.
Apparently the island was the home of small time farmers and fishermen before their eviction and the 'development' of the island. Because they were not compensated, they actually cursed the new owners and the land.
After the stampede they were quick to point out that at the time they held that cursing ritual they did not mean for this to happen, which every Cambodian I spoke to accepted.
He also said there would be no further investigation because it was nobody's fault.
They believe in ghosts, but not so much in the purification ritual, it seems.
Someone should suggest that the ghosts would go away and any curses be neutralized if the evicted people were finally compensated or given back the island.
I used to live in a neighborhood in Oaxaca where the houses were separated by a sidewalk, rather than facing a street. The neighbors in front -- a father, his grown daughter & her husband & kids -- were really horrible to me, including damaging my car. After I'd lived there a couple of years, the father had a really debilitating stroke. Another neighbor, an educated woman at that, asked me if I did it!
Late at night on November 22, 2010, some 80 bodies lay side by side in front of a crowd of onlookers who had gathered to peer through a gate at Calmette hospital, trying to understand who had died and why.
Inside, victims of what Prime Minister Hun Sen would later call the worst tragedy to befall Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge were being treated on the floor, while the dead were taken outside and added to the long rows.
A government investigation into the incident concluded that no one was specifically to blame for the Koh Pich tragedy and resulted in no resignations despite the death of more than 350 people on a bridge on the final day of Cambodia’s annual Water Festival.
One year later, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights has released a report that highlights the gaps in the public’s knowledge of what actually happened on the Koh Pich bridge and calls for a proper government investigation.
CCHR president Ou Virak said yesterday that unless the government took these measures, they were in danger of repeating their mistakes.
“The government finished an investigation over the stampede only one week after the incident, but did not give an exact reason [for the disaster]. I think that the government should keep investigating this case in order to find out the real reason,” he said.
The CCHR report found that in preparing for the festival, despite an expected additional 1 million more attendants than in previous years, Phnom Penh City Hall appeared to make no “detailed or specific measures relating to crowd management and control”.
The 80-page report – based on 100 interviews with victims’ families, police officers, hospital staff and others directly involved – also finds that 90 per cent of eyewitnesses said a one-way system of crossing the bridge was not adhered to.
Witness reports also suggest a second bridge that was supposed to support the one-way system might have been closed, while a police officer admitted he and his colleagues were not enforcing the safeguards.
A disturbing but unverified response from a doctor interviewed for the report, suggests that officials threatened hospital staff that they would be sacked if they told the media electrocution was a cause of the Koh Pich tragedy.
“A doctor that CCHR spoke to from one hospital said that in fact 90 per cent of the dead he saw had been electrocuted or burned,” the report states. “The doctor stated that a number of people came to talk to the staff, and said they should not mention electrocution, or other causes of death other than the crush. This included someone who was ‘very close to the Prime Minister’.”
Say Sengly, director of the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, yesterday denied people had been electrocuted and said his staff had already forgotten about the Koh Pich tragedy.
“I don’t want to talk about that anymore, because a long time has already passed, and there were not cases of electrocution,” he said before declining to comment further.
Pa Socheatvong, municipal deputy governor of Phnom Penh and vice chairman of the special committee commissioned to oversee the government’s investigation into the stampede, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The families of victims killed in the tragedy have been invited to attend the inauguration of a stupa tomorrow commemorating the dead. It will be blessed by 353 monks, representing each person that lost their life.
A survivor who lost her younger sister and declined to be named said yesterday that she was unaware of the inauguration but would not attend even if she had been invited.
“I don’t want to see and to hear about the Koh Pich bridge anymore, because it can remind me of the worst event in my life,” she said.
"Say Sengly, director of the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, ... said his staff had already forgotten about the Koh Pich tragedy. 'I don’t want to talk about that anymore, because a long time has already passed, and there were not cases of electrocution,” he said before declining to comment further.' "
This is really infuriating. Will there be protests or class-action suits or anything else as a follow-up?