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. LuLz

    human nature never ceases to amuse me

    November 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gotta go

    I'm almost certain I've better places and things to occupy my mind, eyes and fingers.
    I hope all your good dreams come true and that you all have a warm holiday season with your flesh, blood and boned loved ones.
    Never give yourselves away.
    by many names and captions

    November 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      'boned loved ones' ? WOW. Your comment is....interesting.

      November 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dougie

    I am somewhat surprised by the insensitivity of this group. People are saying that the Cambodians are stupid or something. I actually witnessed a stampeed once. It was at the Wisconsin football game about 8 years ago, in Madison. These "smart" americans/students all rushed to the field, but the fence prevented them from going any further. Many of these smart americans got injured. Then to top that off, when the ambulances starting arriving on the field, some of these smart students walked nonchalenty in front of the ambulance. It was a disgrace, and embarassment. Don't believe me, google it.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cascadoux

    Very sad, very unfortunate. It is salt to injury that the most guttural of humanity, can find their voice in time of such tragedies. Is it any wonder that people laugh at us in times of our times of pain and suffering?

    November 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shane G

    What's so hard about saying, "Excuse Me." ? Instead of trampling on top of somebody. How the hell do you have the guts to walk on somebody and step on their face? I don't care how dire the situation is, you move quickly, and walk around other people. Not crush them.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WOW. DUMB.

    I don't get it. What on Earth were they stampeding for? Humans are so stupid. I wish aliens would come and eradicate us. We don't deserve this planet.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joaquin

    But, what was the cause of it?

    November 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Linville

    I've dealt with Cambodians on a daily basis years in the past, and this don't surprise me. Their culture is one of pushing and shoving and little regard for the other person.

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

      LOL and thats how a stampede starts.. a bunch of Cambodians pushing and shoving.. because if they were americans.. it would not happen.. stop being stereotypical and judging people

      November 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      My mother always told me "if you got nothing good to say, then say nothing at all." Silence is the best comment for fools like you.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Payton Q Manning

      Wow that's ignorant. Zenophobic racist uneducated simpleton making sweeping unfounded condemnations. People like you give me nausea.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pileonmaster

    I wonder when we'll see any negative commentary in the media on Cambodian culture, the way we did on American culture when one security guard was trampled to death at the Walmart on Long Island.

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

      Furby is to die for.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      Nothing new, has happened a lot. Mid 60s, Fresno CA, there was a crush of concert goers trying to get the best general seating at a concert and two were killed. Look at some past soccer game deaths.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimmyk

      Okay, why don't we compare this to the poor child who faced death by stampede last year on Black Friday when Walmart opened its doors?

      November 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lean

      I imagine that if someone shouts "fire" in this crowded room by falsely saying that Islam is the Cambodian national religion is the only way since they aren't Mexican or of African descent.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • eh

      I heard something like that happened on Black Friday one year, early in the morning some guy opened the doors to a store and all these shoppers just flooded in, running over and killing the poor worker... don't know if it's the same story, but its really dumb how shoppers get so obsessed with buying stuff to a point of killing a worker here in America... I digress....

      November 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sillyness

      What a horrible comment. What wrong with people nowadays?? Can't possibly just have the humanity in your heart to feel sorry for the tragedy that these people have suffered, can you? Just have to make it about you. Or compare it to some completely unrelated "American" event. You should feel ashamed for this comment, but you probably won't.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChimChim

      Just a shame that everyone in this world can be so 'me-centric' as to trample anyone to death for any cause.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      Reminds me of that teabagger stomping the head of someone that opposed the tea bag candidate.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • pileonmaster

      So Silly, why couldn't we have simply mourned the death of the security guard at Walmart instead of turning the event into another opportunity to bash America?

      November 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • AmericanPride

      Who wants to go to Canada anyway?

      November 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • RUSH

      Canada closes at 9pm doesnt it? I doubt Id have time to get there

      November 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • pileonmaster

      There's no tea party in Cambodia, bailout, and the Moveon employee didn't die. Time to get off the MSNBC/Air America/Daily Kos koolaid.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dtcpr

      You know what Canadian Sam, I am jsut so sick of this America Bashing. What a lame generalization of Americans that they are Fat, lazy and smelly because they shop at Wal-Mart. First of all there are people that can only afford Wal-Mart because of the HUGE discrepecny between the rich and poor and Second of all, how about calling it FRUGAL- If more people assessed the difference between their wants and needs and shopped at stores like Wal-Mart people wouldn't be in such a crunch.

      And as for Black-Friday shoppers being ridiculous: people want to give their families special gifts at the holidays and Black Friday sales allow them to buy thinsg they may not be able to afford normally. Yes, large events should be well organized, but to make sweeping generalizations on a group of people is absolutely ridiculous. Grow up. This is a tragedy hundreds of people DIED trying to celebrate their culture's traditions. I am so sick of all the people who like to say horrible things when a tragedy has occured and should be acknowledged.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      So what you are saying is that because only one person died in a tragic incident in America we are obviously so much better than Cambodians who had 339 people die? You are using that as some sort of metric to measure American superiority? If that's your measuring stick what does is say about America when we've had 603 people crushed to death at the Iroquois Theater Fire in Chicago in 1902? Or 21 people killed in the E2 Club stampede in 2003? Look, stampedes happen all over the world. Germany has seen it's share recently. So had England, Denmark, India and other places. Any time you have a large number of people in a confined space with poorly designed exits you run that risk.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      One death is a tragedy, three hundred deaths is just a statistic. Most americans are worse than Stalin, since they agree with his statement, albeit they agree subconsciously. P.S. We've killed more than a million people overseas. We're worse than communists could ever be. They at least have an ideal and stick to it.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • KYNAMO

      The local government needs to be the one to answer for this tragedy, why in the world would they do this?

      November 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SdJ

      pileonmaster - do you really think it's fair to compare a stampeding crowd trying to escape something threatening their lives to a stampeding crowd racing to get a good deal?

      I pray that you put your sense of humanity ahead of your American citizenship.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • muhrvis

      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 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • True American

      First off...Canadian Sam..Joe..whichever, knock that chip off your shoulder and second...nobody wants to come up to Canada anyway so dont get those hopes up.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Walkerny

      I get up to Canada often. I always meet really nice people. But I do see trolls like Canadian Sam, their bitter little-man Napoleon complex all too evident. But they never insult me in person, because they are cowards and are afraid to get smacked. Sad excuses for men. The rest of you Canadians, have a great day, and thank you for hockey, my favorite sport.

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

      Canadian Sam... There is practically zero difference culturally between Americans and Canadians. You are in denial insulting Americans. The main difference is politics and your inferiority complex.

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

      HotDogInBuns -
      That Furby comment was on point! Furby Yeah!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Um...

      On a side note... any form of pride, Canadan pride, American pride...whatever pride only brings discrimination and hostility in all forms. No need to cause strife...

      November 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane


      Just when you thought you could go back to the warzone and have a good time..

      Some holiday in Cambodia folks!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Akhmed Bin-Poopin

      same as 2 people losing their lives in a concert stampede????? I think 339 is a few more than 2. m0r0n!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Akhmed Bin-Poopin

      I hate leafblowers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daws

      The difference isn't obvious? In one situation the crowd, under their own will, raced through the doors of walmart to get toys. In the other, the crowd was goaded to move by friggen police with firehoses. Internal force, vs External. Now get your self-esteem issues together if you're gonna act like everything is a personal attack on you.

      November 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Gotta go

    okay one last thing ...
    I was in attendance at multiple american concerts where kids died in/from stampedes, stage rushing and mosh pits.
    Luckily I was brought back to life.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • msteck

      wow, you are so cool and significant!

      November 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Akhmed Bin-Poopin

      who cares loser

      November 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark S. Alexander

    Happiness is a State-Of-Mind's Feeling/Sensation, – so I'm NOT Happy about this, - because, - the nummber of Dead is Not 6.9 BILLION of the Planet's Stupid & Crazy people. yepYep! @GigiJanel D.D./M.S.A.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Stampedes occur when a crowd's not stupidity, it's not that one race is inferior to happened here last year at a Walmart when a man was crushed to death during the Black Friday Christmas rush. It has happened at U.S. rock concerts. It happens at European soccer games. Yes, some pre-planning at big events can try to prevent it, but please don't use a tragedy like this to demean a whole people, a whole country, that has been thru so much tragedy in it's history. You can always tell when school is out for a few days, as you get these really immature idiots commenting. if they aren't 13 years old, they sure sound like it.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      It looks like your basic lack of crowd control here. Tragic.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      Thank you for saying all that. Now I don't have to.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • troypip

      Thank you for being reasonable and level headed when so many other commenters here are not. It isn't about left -vs- right, liberal or conservative or race.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. C-man

    Have any of you been in a crowd-out-of-control situation? I've been in a few – both times at rock concerts. It's very easy for panic to set it when you can't move and are getting squeezed on all sides. A very scary situation. Jumping into the water would have been my first choice to avoid the mass of bodies.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • James M

      In crowd situations, I place myself at enough of a distance that I can take in the phenomenon of the crowd itself. I try to never put myself in the midst of the crowd. In this case I'd be a few hundred meters away, no doubt photographing the extent of the crowd, maybe from a mountain ridge or something. If I had to be down there, I'd be doing my best to be the *last* one to cross the bridge, *long* after the crowd has dissipated. But then I'm not some religious devotee trying to be among some few who get to see the leader or icon or whatever.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. James M

    A generation ago, the USA as a nation wanted to see every Cambodian man woman and child dead. What has changed?

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

      Hmm, if that was the case we would have nuked Cambodia and the country would cease to exist.

      Now go away, troll.

      November 22, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Un-Rick

      Rick – silence and get back to washing my unmentionables

      November 22, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cambodia

      You shouldn't have say that....

      November 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Australia

      ...what's going on?

      November 22, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cambodia

      Jame M..You shouldn't have say that now we are know what you are thinking..i'm here is Phnom Penh ashamed on you also like me have life and live after dead into the ground nothing that you can take with you and do you think that you are smarter and better...then my people....COME GET LOST..

      November 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mound 22 Nov,2010

      I don't think so. All American are kindly but you...before u say something, pls think twice and mind your word....I can't believe in my eyes that u guy said that...I thought u guy are education nation but u didn't....u really bring a shame to USA...poooooooor uuuuuuuuuu

      November 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slippage

      'All Americans are kindly?' What planet did you beam down from? America has been slaughtering 'brown' peoples for hundreds of years and yes, they HATE Cambodia too. Get out from under your rock!

      November 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bailoutsos

    Nothing new. Mid 60s, Fresno CA, there was a crush of concert goers trying to get the best general seating at a concert and two were killed.

    November 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17