This Week In History- Koh Pich Stampede 2010

The Phnom Penh stampede occurred on 22 November 2010 when 347 people were killed and another 755 were injured in a human stampede during the Khmer Water Festival celebrations in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The stampede occurred at the end of the three-day Water Festival to celebrate the end of the monsoon season and the semiannual reversal of flow of the Tonlé Sap river.

 Initial reports suggest that festival-goers had gathered on Koh Pich (“Diamond Island”), a spit of land stretching into the Tonlé Sap, to watch boat races and then a concert. Around four million people had attended the festival.

The stampede began at 21:30 on a bridge across the river, although witnesses said that people had been “stuck on the bridge” for several hours before, and victims were not freed until hours after the actual stampede occurred. 347 people died, and upwards of 755 more people were injured, some seriously, and many local hospitals were pushed far beyond capacity by the influx of victims.

At one point, the death toll had been listed as being 456, but on 25 November, the government decreased its official death toll to 347, based on the total put forth by Cambodian minister of social affairs Ith Sam Heng.

A witness said the cause of the stampede was “too many people on the bridge and…both ends were pushing. This caused a sudden panic. The pushing caused those in the middle to fall to the ground, then [get] crushed.”

While trying to get away from the stampede, he said that people pulled down electrical wires, causing more people to die of electrocution. These claims were backed up by one of the doctors treating patients, who said that electrocution and suffocation were the primary causes of death among the casualties, though the government disputed the claims of electric shock.

The government said that it would pay five million riel, or US$1,250, to the families of each of the dead, as well as paying a million riel ($250) to each of the injured. 

On 23 November, the day after the incident, around 500 Buddhist monks visited the site of the stampede to chant prayers for those who had died.

A stupa with the names of the victims was later erected close to the site.

Adapted from WIKIPEDIA

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