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.

Post by:
Filed under: Cambodia
soundoff (443 Responses)
  1. Bill

    30 years ago I was attending a football game at a large state university. The student section at that time consisted of about 8000 seats. It was general admission and first come first serve. The entrance gate opened at about 10 am. and the line started forming at about 8 am. The line went from a line to a crowd. Because of the large crowd, students were pushed into the fence. No fatalities, but a lot of cut faces, broken fingers etc. You can imagine the kind of pressure when you have 8000 people in a small area all pushing in one direction.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. shawn

    Terrible reporting.... WHAT stampeded and What did the stomping? Was it a human stampede or animals?

    November 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • zeke

      Look up dense in the dictionary, it will say SHAWN.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get a clue

      It was a stampede of rabid hamsters.. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WAS!!!??!?!

      November 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Junie

    Half of me thinks "meh it's just Cambodia", the other half thinks, "how sad"

    November 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Have you ever been to Cambodia?
      It is a fascinating country n... and I am sure you would look at the world from a different perspective.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |


    November 22, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      @Khun to Mai, are you living in a perfect world? Where about? Oh I forgot, Bangc-ck or Amsterdam red light district?

      November 23, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. skygod

    lol, why dont you complaining folks go help. or go rebuild iraq. and do the right thing. we will blog About you to when you make the news. and we know u have families people will bring up when we call you stupid. but please go help them

    November 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. stampede survivor

    Joe Schmoe, stampedes are vicious acts of death! How dare you!

    November 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dashabi

    condolences. Combodian people are nicest people on the planet

    November 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Worse than animals

      Nicest people on earth? APPARENTLY NOT if 4 million of them thought it was normal to rush and stampede and stomp to death 300 + people at a festival. Freakin monsters.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry

    Wow...what a bunch of dummies.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      Wow, I hope you won't be a dummy who will participate in the Black Friday.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hate disrespect people

      yeah before you said that, try putting yourself in those people shoes

      December 8, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Omer Pasi

    I just cannot believe what I'm seeing. I left Phnom Penh last Saturday. I saw the first day of the festival, I still have pictures in my camera (still loaded). I sat in the foreigners' stand, in front of the King's Palace for about a couple of hours, that day... The crowd was such that a stampede had the potential of creating major damage...

    November 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Wait, what did this stampede involve exactly? Humans? Wildebeests? Elephants? Nice reporting, CNN.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. OCV

    To those who have been writing some kinde of unhuman comment
    Water Festival is such a national event in Cambodia. people in the countryside worked so hard to save money just to have a chance to visit the city to enjoy the big event that held for over hundred years till now..And Now it's 3:00 AM time in Cambodia and both the PM and people all over the country are wide awake because of the tragedy incident. How can u laugh or say such a heartless things?? are u even human??? people are dying here! if u don know the true stroy, pls SHUT YOUR FILTHY MOUTH UP!! i've had it with u people who looked down on the poor country!! remember, god will punish u for your sin!

    November 22, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • OCV is a TOOL

      Wait, God will punish US for our sin? What sin is that exactly? For calling out people who behaved worse than animals for some festival? Are you out of your mind? They should be ashamed of themselves. This is disgusting and incredibly shocking that over 300 people die because what, they were excited over a FESTIVAL? I mean, do you hear yourself? Too bad you werent a part of it.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Regular, educated Americans are not writing the dimwitted comments here. Rather, it is the trash of our society, showing up for nearly ever tragic story on to write vile nonsense.

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

      people come to celebrate this festival to celebrate the victory and to remember the sacrified for those who have lost their life in the great war of Angkor Period, just like u American celebrate Independent's day. I wish i had die in this tragedy to share the pain of the death.. n i wish u lived a long life to suffer the pain of what my people have been suffered right now.. but i don think u would feel it as i understan u don have a human heart at all. u can't call yourself human when u don't value people life.

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

    Does anyone know why they stampeded?

    November 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Greg

    Well...human sacrifice has historically been thought as a practice in order to please the gods, and bring the rain...I see a fruitful harvest in Cambodia's future...

    November 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bill

    I would coment the its the mistake of the authorities of not doing adequate crowd management.... There have been so many larger groups that have assembled and nothing like this has happened.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    I cannot believe how many of you think something like this is funny or just don't care. If you don't care, can't you just keep your rude and hurtful comments to yourself? This is a horrible tragedy. My condolences to the familes of these poor people. Some of us truly do care.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17