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. funnyevents

    Black friday came early for those people.

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

      You Must of been beaten by asians for your retarded comments prior life or something thus resulting in your hatred for the race. what a loser.

      November 22, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ashley

    Just for the record, I live in Canada and I don't want Canadian Sam representing the rest of us.

    Walmart exists here, by the way.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim from Colorado

    Why does CNN have these comment pages set up this way when the other way is so much better?

    November 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cambodia

    Please stop it! the more you post the more you make me cry....i'm crying .

    November 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! My-yummy!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    I love Canada, but I have been there in quite a while. I think I may make a trip to Montreal, no Toronto. Toronto's cooler, but Montreal is lovely as well.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Darwin's at work here folks lol

    November 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Peter

    I could write a letter to your board of tourism and I could have this place condemned. I could put strychnine in the guacamole.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    Seriously, someone should do something!

    November 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. On a serious note

    If you die from a human stampede, you should commit suicide. Who does from human stampedes, pu* *ies

    November 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • IfTheyWereYourFamilyMembers

      I don't know why these small numbers of people just don't understand how sad this is. You can't commit suicide after you're dead you idiot. COME BACK AND DO IT FOR YOURSELF AFTER YOU ARE DEAD.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. funnyevents

    Did anyone notice the guy to the left in the stampede photo who's got this expression on his face like he's thinking real hard about something while everyones screaming and shoving.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe Shmoe

    Over 300 idiots died and counting. PWN3D, google it.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • IfTheyWereYourFamilyMembers

      They are not idiots, you F***ING JOE. They are DEAD. YOU HEARD THAT? THEY ARE DEAD. NOT AN IDIOT LIKE YOU.

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

      Oh my god! The stampede photo and joes comment would make a hilarious t-shirt. Someone get on it right away.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ryan

    Very sad! The government and the police need to be held accountable for every single death. But of course no one will be held accountable in that country. I can't imagine peoples fear of jumping in to the water out of force even when they can't swim or being electrocuted. Really am at a loss of words.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ek serey

    I am deepy sad to learn about this tragedy. The serious question is who will be responsible for this tragic death? Hun Sen's administration and local authority need to hold this accountable.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • IfTheyWereYourFamilyMembers

      it is really sad, serey. I can't even do my own work.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. IfTheyWereYourFamilyMembers

    F. U the people who compare this to Walmart and who make fun of this. Just imagine if your loved one die for any reason... what would your feeling like. This is not fun to make. For any reason they died of, lives were lost during this tragedy... No matter what religion you are holding to, many people don't want to die as soon.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • funnyevents

      Boring. You just lost your soap box privileges. Get down off there.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Shmoe

    I would have grabbed all the girl's butts before dying.

    November 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • funnyevents

      I would have tried to grab as many boobs as was possible.

      November 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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