The annual Water Festival in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh on Monday has come to a deadly conclusion.
At least 378 people have been killed after overcrowding and pushing on a bridge late at night turned to panic. Another 755 people have been injured.
The incident took place on Diamond Island in the middle of the Tonle Sap River on the final day of the three-day festival.
An estimated two million people attended the traditional festival which marks the end of the rainy season and the reversal of the river’s flow.
After watching a popular boat race down the river, people began heading across the bridge to a concert on the island.
The trouble apparently began when the bridge became overcrowded, with partygoers pushing against each other to get on and off the packed island. The pushing at both ends squashed those in the middle and caused a sudden panic and stampede.
What intensified the panic is uncertain. Some say it was because rumours began spreading that the bridge was unstable. Others say it was because 10 people passed out under the pressure of the crowd.
In any case, hundreds of people were crushed after they got pushed to the ground, and at least 50 people reportedly jumped into the river, nearly all of whom drowned.
According to the government, most of the victims were killed from either internal injuries or suffocation.
However, some victims were also reportedly electrocuted after people trying to escape grabbed onto overhead festival lighting cables which came loose.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has described it as the “biggest tragedy” to hit the country since the mass killings carried out by the Khmer Rouge of the 1970s.
He has called for a national day of mourning on Thursday, as well as an investigation into what went wrong.
Despite emergency services reacting quickly to the incident, doctors fear more of the injured will die because hospitals no longer have the capacity to treat them.
Meanwhile, police were picking up bodies from the bridge and out of the water as the crowds began to clear.
By The Casual Truth
Photo – People crushed at the front of the stampede