Phnom Penh stampede
|Date||22 November 2010|
|Time||21:30 local (14:30 UTC)|
|Location||bridge between Phnom Penh and Koh Pich, Cambodia|
|Non-fatal injuries||At least 755|
The Phnom Penh stampede occurred on 22 November 2010 when 347 people were killed and another 755 were injured in a human stampede during the Khmer Water Festival celebrations in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
The stampede occurred at the end of the three-day Water Festival to celebrate the end of the monsoon season and the semiannual reversal of flow of the Tonlé Sap river. Initial reports suggest that festival-goers had gathered on Koh Pich ("Diamond Island"), a spit of land stretching into the Tonlé Sap, to watch boat races and then a concert. Around four million people had attended the festival.
It was the third incident in the festival's history resulting in fatalities, though it was by far the worst; five rowers on a boat drowned in 2008, and another drowned in 2009.
The stampede began at 21:30 local time (14:30 UTC) on a bridge across the river, though witnesses said that people had been "stuck on the bridge" for several hours before, and victims were not freed until hours after the actual stampede occurred. 347 people died, and upwards of 755 more people were injured, some seriously, and many local hospitals were pushed far beyond capacity by the influx of victims. At one point, the death toll had been listed as being 456, but on 25 November, the government decreased its official death toll to 347, based on the total put forth by Cambodian minister of social affairs Ith Sam Heng.
A witness said the cause of the stampede was "too many people on the bridge and...both ends were pushing. This caused a sudden panic. The pushing caused those in the middle to fall to the ground, then [get] crushed." While trying to get away from the stampede, he said that people pulled down electrical wires, causing more people to die of electrocution. These claims were backed up by one of the doctors treating patients, who said that electrocution and suffocation were the primary causes of death among the casualties, though the government disputed the claims of electric shock.
A journalist from The Phnom Penh Post said that the stampede had occurred due to police forces firing a water cannon into people on the bridge in an attempt to force them to move off the bridge after it began swaying, which had triggered panic among those on it.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that "with this miserable event, I would like to share my condolences with my compatriots and the family members of the victims." He ordered an inquiry to be conducted in response to the incident, and declared 25 November to be a day of mourning. The government said that the investigation would be conducted by a special committee that would take evidence and testimony from witnesses to the incident. The preliminary reports of the investigation, released on 24 November, said that the stampede had been triggered by the swaying of the bridge, which had caused panic among many of those on it.
The government said that it would pay five million riel, or US$1,250, to the families of each of the dead, as well as paying a million riel ($250) to each of the injured. On 24 November, the government announced it planned to construct a stupa as a memorial to those killed in the incident.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Phnom Penh stampede.|
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- The Koh Pich Tragedy: One Year on, Questions Remain - Cambodian Center for Human Rights - November 2011.