November 22nd, 2010
03:37 PM ET

Cambodian minister: 339 dead in stampede

Military police examine the bridge where a stampede took place in Cambodia.

[Updated at 4:25 p.m.] Steve Finch, a Phnom Penh Post reporter, told CNN that the stampede at the water festival in Phnom Penh began around 10 p.m. Monday (10 a.m. ET), when police began firing a water cannon onto a bridge to an island in the center of a river.

The bridge was packed with people, and police fired the water cannon in an effort to get them to move, he said.

"That just caused complete and utter panic," he told CNN in a telephone interview. He said a number of people lost consciousness and fell into the water; some may have died by electric shock, he said.

Watch: "It was chaos," reporter says

Finch cited witnesses as saying that the bridge was festooned with electric lights, which may have played a role in the deaths.

The government denied anyone died by electric shock.

But a doctor who declined to be identified publicly said the main cause of death was suffocation and electric shock. Police were among the dead, he said.

While Finch said the incident apparently coincided with the firing of the water cannon, a witness, Ouk Sokhhoeun, 21, told the Phnom Penh Post that the stampede began first.

In addition to the 339 people who have been confirmed dead, 329 people were injured, Prime Minister Hun Sen said, according to The Phnom Penh Post.

The incident happened on the final day of the three-day festival, according to The Phnom Peng Post. The  festival, which attracts people from all over Cambodia, is held annually to commemorate a victory by the Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century reign of King Jayavarman VII, according to the Tourism Cambodia website.


[Updated at 3:37 p.m.] Steve Finch, a Phnom Penh Post reporter, told CNN there were reports from witnesses of people electrocuted as police fired water cannons at people on the bridge to hurry them along causing the stampede.

According to a Radio Australia report, a big crowd watching the annual water festival panicked when a number of people were apparently electrocuted on the bridge.

Cambodian authorities say hundreds of people were either crushed in the resulting stampede or drowned when they fell or jumped into the river.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has given several post-midnight live broadcasts to update the country. In one, according to the Associated Press, he called the stampede the "biggest tragedy" in Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the 1970s.

He also ordered all government ministries to fly the flag at half-staff and said there would be a national day of morning.

[Updated at 3:05 p.m.] Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on state-run TV he was unsure yet as to what caused the stampede.

"This needs to be investigated more," Hun Sen said, according to an AFP report.

Hun Sen said a committee would be set up to examine the incident.

The Associated Press, Reuters and AFP reported that witnesses said 10 people had either collapsed or become unconscious during the festival, triggering the panic.

That led, they reported, to people rushing towards a bridge headed toward Diamond Island. That's when things got worse, a witness told AFP.

"We were crossing the bridge to Diamond Island when people started pushing from the other side. There was lots of screaming and panic," 23-year-old Kruon Hay told AFP. "People started running and were falling over each other. I fell too. I only survived because other people pulled me up. Many people jumped in the water."

Sok Sambath, governor of the capital's Daun Penh district, told AFP "this is the biggest tragedy we have ever seen."

iReport: Are you there? Send photos, videos, descriptions

[Updated at 2:41 p.m.] Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian Minister of Information, has said the death toll from the stampede has now reached 339.

The three-day festival attracts people from all over Cambodia - and around the world - to the Royal palace. The festival is held annually to commemorate a victory by the Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century reign of King Jayvarman VII, according to the Tourism Cambodia website.

The festival is also used to pray for a good rice harvest, sufficient rain and to celebrate the full moon, the site says. The festival dates back to before the 7th century.

At night, the boats on the river are illuminated with neon lights and there is a fireworks display.

A stampede occurred during a water festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

[Updated at 2:36 p.m.] Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday on state-run Bayon Television that more than 200 people have died in the water festival stampede.

Officers with the Prime Ministers Bodyguard Unit stood outside a local hospital trying to help those who brought injured and control the scene of chaos outside.

Hundreds of shoes, clothing and personal items still littered the streets, the bridge and the underlying water near where the festival took place. The road on the bridge was so covered you could barely see the surface.

[Updated at 2:26 p.m.] Ambulances appeared to be making runs back and forth between the scene of the stampede and the hospital - dropping off the injured and then speeding away again, video on state-run Bayon Television showed.

Doctors stood outside a hospital, trying to direct traffic, between ambulances and vehicles of regular citizens bringing in the injured.

Friends and family clutched some the injured already in the hospital while others raced from the streets clutching the injured in the arms.

[Updated at 2:23 p.m.] Video from state-run Bayon Television in Cambodia showed panic in the streets and outside local hospitals.

Dozens of injured people appeared to be laying on what appeared to be the waiting room floor of a hospital with IV lines hooked up to them that were strung across benches.

[Updated at 2:04 p.m.] Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday on state-run Bayon Television that 180 people have died in the water festival stampede.

"With this miserable event, I would like to share my condolences with my compatriots and the family members of the victims," he said, according to AFP.

More than 4 million people were attending the Water Festival when the stampede occurred, said Visalsok Nou, a Cambodian Embassy official in Washington.

[Posted at 1:55 p.m.] More than 100 people were killed Monday in a stampede that occurred during a festival near Cambodia's royal palace in Phnom Penh, a Cambodian Embassy official in Washington said.

This story is developing. We'll bring you the latest information as soon as we get it.

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Filed under: Cambodia
soundoff (443 Responses)
  1. Canadian Joe

    To some stupid and ignorant Americans, if you have never been to Cambodia, don't make any racist and nasty comments OK. CAMBODIAN CULTURE is very beautiful , ancient deep rooted in history , glamorous and colourful and has a great meaning than you shallow American culture. It is by far better than yours.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uncle Sam

      Why do you think all the ignorant comments are from people in the US? Seems Canadians and Britts speak english too.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Is there a Doctor in the house?
      I wonder what they pay for health insurance? mmmm I'll bet my Doctor is not a provider in Cambodia. That's a toughy.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephen Abootman

      When you think of Canada, what's the one thing that comes to mind?

      November 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cartman


      November 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      You are a moron. I live just miles from the Canadian border and I will stay on my side if you stay in your mother's basement!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. erik

    For some of the comments on here, i hope that you see tragedy, not because im sadistic but because i think it is obvious that you have never been in need of compassion...maybe a little bit of tragedy would teach some of these posters what it feels like.

    This is so sad, things can change in a hurry. one minute you are drinking a beer, enjoying yourself, the next minute you experience the unimaginable

    November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      True that erik. True that.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Karen Arlington, Mass.

    Terrible, just terrible. Why was such an event held without proper count of human capacity? Ensuring safety for all to enjoy such an event. My heart and prayers go out to all in Cambodia.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    How people laugh and joke about others dying is beyond me.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Daniel

    Water cannons to rush people along? Startling disrespect for human life!

    November 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. funnyevents

    This is what happens when people breed like rabbits. Its a form of self population control. If sickness doesn't get them then they are gonna get each other. Sad but a fact of life when there are so many and such little land.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Desertpro

    Canadian Sam
    Wow he makes a coment on stupid bigots that attack americans for no reason and a stupid bigot shows up. Your mother should be proud you net troll. Why don'y you call up stairs from your couch and see. Loser.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rebekah

    I don't know whether to vomit or to weep at these comments. I pray that each of my students will be sitting safely in their seats come Wednesday morning (if we have class). May God bring His healing to Kampuchea.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. muhrvis

    Why are we so selfishly narrow minded? When a terrible tragedy happens somewhere, all we see is our own little concerns and biases in the mirror, and all we can manage to utter is some "American" spin on the issue, or make some blanket statement about non-Americans.

    If it is true that the military attacked or fired water cannons on people, causing them to flee and get electrocuted or trampled, then no, there shouldn't be an outcry against Cambodian "culture." There will be an outcry against the dictatorship of Hun Sen though.

    Funny how the narrow minded people here always boil every issue down to something having to do with the U.S., as if only our problems are relevant or matter. This is a horrible incident and needs to be investigated, Who cares about your small point concerning U.S. politics.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cambodia

    Please notice that this is the first time that happen here since 1990 and now .....if you are not sad or happy it's up to you guys but it's my country..we are sorrow and sad for the lost that we have now..and thanks to all of you that are with us...i love my country and my people like you guys love ur home and ur people too..imagine if you have ur close 1 among the people..that dead. please be kind and positive to those a round you like Jesus did to you..Remember him? he loves everyone..not white or black or yellow.....

    November 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jimmy Rigsby

    I remember an episode of Family Ties that covered this exact same topic. They specifically mentioned Cambodia and everything. That had to be 20 years ago. That show was such a smart show. Whatever happened to Michael J Fox, anyway? Ohh. Right.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. CP

    I can't believe what I'm reading.... Innocent human-beings have died today! Yet criminals and fools making these selfish comments still get a breath to make these comments. Not all Americans are this selfish. Any civilized human-being would feel sadness about this tragic event and I for one hope this can be avoided in the future all over the world.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      you're the one that has CP...

      November 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • CP

      @Peter....and you have no brain.... way to prove my point.... Thanks

      November 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Slick Goodlin

    How do you, "FIRE", a Water Cannon??

    November 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. candi

    SOME OF YOU ALL complete moron's no one should be treated in such a way to the point its upsetting these are people someone daughter,son mother,father,sister or a friend. There not animals. Ive seen people treat there animals better then this lots of these people die u would come and start blowin cars up on the hwy because of an accident and its at a stand still. these people were just tryin to get out of danger and the should have not been treated like this its horrible!!!!!

    November 22, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Phil

    I can't wait to hear someone say, a backscatter x-ray body scanner or enhanced pat down could have prevented this.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • funnyevents

      It could have totally prevented this. They would all have had to wait in line to be scanned before they could cross the bridge. Looks like somebody needs a back scatter x-ray machine.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
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