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Festival Stampede Kills at Least 351 in Cambodia

Cambodia Stampede Water Festival Surge Kills Khmer Koh Pich

Newsy Video| November 23, 2010 | likes, 0 dislikes

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What should have been a celebratory night, ended in tragedy. At least 351 people were killed on Monday, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, while trying to leave a festival venue.
NBC explains what led to the stampede.
REPORTER: "Millions of people had descended on the city, for the annual three-day water festival, celebrating the end of the rainy season. Eyewitnesses say there was panic, as a vast crowd pressed across a small bridge, back into Phnom Penh from a nearby island, where they'd been attending a concert."

What exactly led to that panic is unclear, and the Cambodian government has launched an investigation to determine the cause. The Guardian looks at some of the speculations.

"Some at the scene yesterday said the crush started when speculation swept the tightly packed crowd that the bridge was about to collapse. ... Others said the panic was caused by the multi-coloured lights strung from the suspension ropes sparking, a rumour of food poisoning or a gang of youths robbing people in the crowd."

The Phnom Penh Post reports, as of Tuesday afternoon, both the government and the police have put the death toll at different numbers.

"Minister of Health ... said 351 people had died and 395 were injured. ... [But] Unconfirmed reports from police sources put the death toll at as many as 378 and 755 injured in the disaster..."

A Voice of America report focuses on the aftermath of the stampede, as surviving family members take care of the bodies of their loved ones.

REPORTER: "The government is now helping families remove the bodies of loved ones from the hospital."
OFFICIAL: "Until now, we have found the identities of the victims 50 percent to 60 percent. And those who have found their lost loved ones, we have orange coffins for them, and transport the bodies to their provinces, where the provincial governor will be responsible for holding the traditional Buddhist cremation."

A blog on the Economist suggests the stampede is a symbol of the country's more fundamental problems.

"In many ways, the horror on the bridge can be seen to represent an outgrowth of ... all that ails the country's civic life: a mixture of endemic corruption, poor planning and an indolent attitude towards rules and regulations."

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