Three dead, dozens hurt after temple collapse in Cambodia

A rescue worker cuts through debris to aid search efforts. KT/Tep Sony. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SIEM REAP, Dec 3, 2019, The Khmer Times. At least three people died and about a dozen others were critically injured after a temple under construction in Siem Reap province collapsed yesterday afternoon, The Khmer Times reported.

Siem Reap city Governor Nuon Phutheara said the collapse occurred at the Prasat Koukchak pagoda in Koukchak commune at about 2pm.

“Our joint forces are working hard to rescue people trapped under the rubble,” Mr Phutheara said.

Tith Dira, chief of Koukchak commune, said 20 to 30 people were working at the construction site.

Mr Dira said most of the workers were village security guards who volunteered to construct the new temple.

“I have no idea why it collapsed,” he said. “Police are now working on the case.”

Pen Phalkun, director of the provincial referral hospital, said at least 13 victims were admitted in his hospital as of 5.30pm yesterday, adding that two of them died from their injuries.

“I can confirm that we received at least 13 victims at the hospital,” Mr Phalkun said. “Right now, two of them have been pronounced dead because of their serious injuries.”

“One of my deputy directors was assigned to visit the scene to help rescue efforts,” he added.

Lim Heng, Mr Phalkun’s deputy director, yesterday evening said the death toll had risen to three and more workers were sent to the provincial referral hospital.

“At least three people have died and 14 others were injured after the temple collapsed,” Mr Heng said. “They were hit by rubble that dropped on them when the collapse happened. The victims were found badly injured.”

More slightly injured workers were sent to hospital late last night, bringing the total dead and injured to 19.

Kun Kim, first vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, identified the victims who died as 28-year-old Ly Samnang, 35-year-old Yin Samnang and 40-year-old Lan Lak.

Major General Tith Narong, chief of provincial police, said authorities have not yet determined what caused the temple to collapse.

The collapse shocked villagers. They blamed it on poor construction and lack of inspections by authorities.

Yim Phally, a villager watching the rescue efforts, said construction of the temple began a few years ago, but it stopped due to lack of funds. Ms Phally said at least four ambulances were used to transport victims to hospitals.

“About 20 people were trapped under the rubble – I saw ten people rescued from the debris,” Ms Phally said. “We are concerned because they were in critical condition.”

She said other villagers previously expressed concern about a lack of safety at the construction site, but work on the temple resumed.

A villager who declined to be named said the temple building was 30 metres wide and 40 metres long. The villager said the temple was under construction for years.

“We do not know why it collapsed,” the villager said. “I was shocked to witness this accident.”

Tea Seiha, provincial governor, said authorities have launched an investigation to determine the cause of the deadly collapse.

Deadly collapses at construction sites are a serious issue in the Kingdom. In July, a seven-storey building under construction in Sihanoukville collapsed, killing 28 workers.

The collapse prompted the government to form the Committee for the Inspection of the Quality of Buildings in Preah Sihanouk province.

In August, provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun ordered authorities to demolish 14 recently-constructed buildings in Sihanoukville after they were deemed unsafe by the committee.

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