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Cambodia stampede kills 345 at festival

Phnom Penh, November 23, 2010

A stampede on a bridge in  Cambodia's capital killed at least 345 people when thousands  panicked, pinning and trampling revellers on the last day of a  festival marking the end of the rainy season.   

The stampede began late on Monday on a small bridge lined  with lights connecting Phnom Penh to an island where a crowd  had gathered to celebrate the water festival and watch a  concert.

Survivors said panic set in when several revellers were  electrocuted. Police said some had shouted that the bridge was  about to collapse, triggering the melee.   

The victims suffocated or were trampled and some survivors  said they were wedged into the crowd of living and dead for  hours. Police sprayed water so survivors could drink, some said.

'It was packed. People were pushing each other and I  fell,' Khon Sros, 19, told Reuters from her hospital bed.
'People were shouting 'go, go'.'    

She said some people had leapt off the bridge into the  water to escape but she had been pinned in the crowd from her  waist down until police pulled her out.

'One man died near me. He was weak and didn't have enough  air.'

Thousands of people had been eating in outdoor restaurants  and were crossing the bridge to return to the city centre.   

State television said at least 240 of the dead were women. 'I thought I was dead,' said Touch Theara, 38, stuck in  the crowd for three hours.   

'Police sprayed water at us. We were just opening our  mouths to drink,' she said.    

Prime Minister Hun Sen apologised for the disaster in  which at least 329 people were hurt. He ordered an  investigation as television footage showed relatives weeping  over the bodies of the dead piled one on top of the other.   

'This is the biggest tragedy in more than 31 years after  the Pol Pot regime,' he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge,  whose agrarian revolution from 1975-1979 killed an estimated  1.7 million people in Cambodia under the command of Pol Pot.

'I ask you all to understand me and forgive me for this  very bad situation.'  The prime minister declared Thursday a day of mourning. - Reuters




Tags: Cambodia | stampede |

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