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Stampede in Cambodia kills hundreds -

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Stampede in Cambodia kills hundreds

Broadcast: 23/11/2010

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

Approximately 350 Cambodians are dead after panic at a huge annual festival sparked a stampede
across a narrow bridge. There are reports the crush began with shouts that the bridge was


TRACEY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: First, tragedy in Cambodia.

Around 350 people are dead after panic at a huge festival sparked a stampede across a narrow
bridge. There are reports the crush began with shouts that the bridge was collapsing.

Victims were trampled and eyewitnesses say that some were electrocuted, although that's a claim the
government denies.

It's being described as Cambodia's biggest tragedy since the years of the Killing Fields.

A short while ago I spoke to Leena Kamarainen from the international federation of the Red Cross in
Phnom Penh and I should warn some viewers may find the images distressing.

Leena Kamarainen, there must be a real sense of shock in Cambodia today.

LEENA KAMARAINEN, RED CROSS, CAMBODIA: Yes, I must say that we woke up in the morning - or we heard
already during the night - the terrible news about the young people, mainly young people, who have
died during the night and after a wonderful day in Phnom Penh celebrating the water festival and
then the tragedy which occurred for the country.

TRACEY BOWDEN: So the victims were mostly young people and people from out of town who'd come in
for the festival?

LEENA KAMARAINEN: Yes, that's true because usually during all festivals people go out to the
countryside where they have their relatives but the water festival is one of the biggest
celebrations when people from all over the country come to Phnom Penh and want to celebrate and

People meet their relatives here in Phnom Penh and the estimation was that about 3 million came to
Phnom Penh for these three days celebrated. And especially young people we know all over the world
that it's usually young people who move and come to have fun and enjoy company from other young

And I think that's also what's happened last night on this island where it happened, so it was
mainly young people.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Do you we know if it was a specific incident that prompted the panic and the
stampede or was it just too many people in one place?

LEENA KAMARAINEN: It's very difficult to say at this stage what actually caused the thing and I
think they are investigating - the authorities - what actually happened. But what we have heard is
that people- it was like. They left the concert area and there's only bridge where you can go out
and then people went-

Young people they had some kind of fun that they made a group of people and somehow they got stuck
so that they couldn't move forward or backward and maybe it was just like a joke in the beginning
but then suddenly some people fell down on the bridge and then they, more people and then they fell
more and more and- And that somehow they were just trapped on the bridge.

We don't know actually what was the cause and also we heard that something people were scared of
but if it was one that people were lying on the ground that scared people.

TRACEY BOWDEN: What did most people die of and what sorts of injuries do some of the survivors

LEENA KAMARAINEN: Well I think what we have heard was suffocation because there were so many people
and it's so crowded and the estimation is that if they're on this island with several hundred
thousand, maybe one million people coming on this only one bridge.

So suffocation because it was so crowded, but of course then people were lying on four-five people
above each other and then somebody jumping who was going to jump over the others. And so then he's
also broken leg bones and so on because they were crushed up under each other.

And then of course somebody tried to remove from those who were lying under and then they got

And then it's also that the police came with water guns and they were throwing water on the people
so that they would not be in such a pile in together. And then people jumped to water and they were
drowned. And then there were lamps hanging on from the bridge and they touched the lamps with the
hanging wires and got electrical shocks.

TRACEY BOWDEN: With so many people involved, is it a chaotic scene? What is the scene like there

LEENA KAMARAINEN: Well, now it's- I think people quite quickly after the incident when they heard
the sirens going and ambulances coming and so on, so people left the area for such - though it's
not any more. But of course people are moving and they want to go and take flowers and candles to
the place where this happened. But you can't see any more these millions of people like it was
yesterday when the traffic was stuck for hours and then all the streets were crowded with people.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Is there a sense that the people who were affected and the families of the people
affected are angry, are wanting some answers or do you not sense that yet?

LEENA KAMARAINEN: No, that sense is not because they are- they just want to find the loved ones and
I think still people are in the hospitals and people need to find their relatives. They want to cry
out their sorrow what they have.

So it's not like... I haven't seen yet that it's come here. It's coming in a shock situation. A
little bit later when you are starting to blame.

I think during the first 48 hours, in any way, more that you shocked for yourself and you don't
want to believe that this has happened. And then it comes in the later stage that you are accusing

Leena Kamarainen, thank you for speaking to us.