Sad news comes from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh Monday night where a stampede following a festival led to the death of 345 people. The Cambodia stampede started during the celebration of a water festival on an island in the Tonle Sap river when something in the crowd caused everyone to panic. In the midst of the chaos, many tried to get off the island via a small bridge but ended up falling into the water. Over 300 Cambodians were injured in the struggle.
The annual three day water festival signals the end of the rainy season and authorities estimated that over 3 million people flocked to Phnom Penh for the celebration. The main draws are concerts and boat races in the river. After the last race on Monday night, the chaos started on Koh Pich, Diamond Island where a concert had taken place.
According to the soda vendor, So Cheata, the Cambodia Stampede started when about ten people fell down unconscious in the press of the crowd. That, in turn, caused everyone to panic and snowballed into a stampede. Other reports say rumors of a bomb or bridge collapse fueled the panic. In order to get off the island, you have to cross a small suspension bridge and during the stampede, the bridge became so packed that people got crushed underfoot and fell off the sides.
Many of the victims were young women. Prime Minister Hun Sen said the Cambodia stampede was the country’s biggest tragedy since the 1970′s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge.