Cambodian anger over stampede management

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Cambodia is still coming to terms with the deaths of hundreds of people killed in a stampede on Monday at Phnom Penh's annual Water Festival. Most of the bodies have been identified and some funerals have been held, but anger over the management of the event and the lack of control over the huge crowd has grown.

Here's our South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel.

ZOE DANIEL: Cambodian people are extraordinarily resilient, possibly as a result of the country's horrific past. But Monday's stampede shocked the nation, the mass death a grim reminder of the dark days of the Khmer Rouge and an image that Cambodia is trying desperately to shake.

Outside hospitals across the city the confusion and devastation was raw as people searched for the missing and found the dead.

(Sounds of anguished people)

Hundreds lay in makeshift morgues and hundreds more laid inside hospital rooms, battered and bruised but alive. Fifteen-year-old Moeum told me through a translator that he was pinned under a pile of bodies for two hours before he was pulled out by rescuers.

(Moeum speaking)

TRANSLATOR: He says it was too crowded, there was no space to move at all. People just getting closer and closer until they, none of them could move.

ZOE DANIEL: Paul Hurford is an Australian fireman who runs an NGO in Phnom Penh to help train and advise Cambodian authorities on the management of disasters. He and his team from Australian Firefighters International Relief and Education were on the scene with local rescue workers after the stampede.

PAUL HURFORD: The scene was fairly well organised at the time that we arrived, the police had established a secure area for the casualties and were holding the general public out. As it was concerns of so many people within the area.

The ambulance system was working quite well, transporting people to and from, to the hospitals and keeping the people flowing from the site where there wasn't many resources. But there was still a lot of casualties and it wasn't a very pretty sight.

ZOE DANIEL: The scene was horrific - hundreds dead from suffocation and crush injuries and others drowned in the river.

PAUL HURFORD: Personally I found it quite challenging, it's, it was a very large incident and as we see now we've got over 345 fatalities from the event and another 300-plus people seriously injured.

So, I mean, in any scale, whether we're here in Cambodia or in a developed country in a big city, it's still a major incident and still quite challenging for anyone to deal with.

ZOE DANIEL: Dr Tim Keenan is an orthopaedic surgeon from Perth who frequently travels to Cambodia to assist with the Australian Orthopaedic Association's outreach program. He was working in the Kossamak Hospital - one of the places where the dead were brought for identification and the injured were brought for treatment.

DR TIM KEENAN: The people were intertwined and jammed into each other for a number of hours on the bridge and there was really no broken bones but there was what we call these crush injuries where your limbs get sort of under pressure for some period of time and they you get what's called a compartment syndrome where the muscle builds up a lot of pressure and stops the circulation and the sensation to that limb.

ZOE DANIEL: Television footage showed desperate rescuers pulling those who were still alive out of the crush of bodies.

Dr Keenan says the way they were extracted was understandable but not ideal.

DR TIM KEENAN: They're not really skilled or rehearsed at disaster management so a lot of these people were being extracted under quite difficult circumstances and probably the way they were extracted wasn't the correct way to do it.

But still, that's in the circumstances, people extract people the best way they can and then they're brought by an ambulance which isn't really what we would consider an ambulance, without any oxygen or facilities.

One of the big problems in Phnom Penh and the hospital is that the intensive care facilities are very primitive and the staff are not trained in the management of these involved cases so sadly a lot of patients who perhaps in the western situation may have been managed better cannot be managed at that high level here in Phnom Penh.

ZOE DANIEL: The first funerals have been held for the dead, but they haven't given closure to relatives who want to know why crowd control wasn't better. Three million people came to Phnom Penh for the Water Festival, yet the government admits it overlooked the potential for this kind of incident.

Early police investigations indicate that the overloaded bridge was shaking and that probably triggered the stampede.

This is Zoe Daniel reporting for Correspondents Report.

Cambodia mourns stampede victims

Cambodia marked a national day of mourning Thursday, grieving the more than 300 people who were killed in Monday's stampede at a water festival in the capital of Phnom Penh.

Gneth Srey Keang, 18, the sister of Gneth Srey Neang, who was killed in the bridge stampede on Nov. 22, attends a ceremony Thursday for the victims during a national day of mourning in Phnom Penh.Gneth Srey Keang, 18, the sister of Gneth Srey Neang, who was killed in the bridge stampede on Nov. 22, attends a ceremony Thursday for the victims during a national day of mourning in Phnom Penh. (Chor Sokunthea/Reuters)

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany wiped away tears as they lit incense in memory of the at least 347 people who were killed. At least 395 more were injured and some people are still missing.

Police now estimate that there were between 7,000 and 8,000 people on the suspension bridge at the time of the stampede. The bridge started to sway, people began to yell, and the stampede started, crushing some and forcing others into the Bassac River below.

"People became panicked when they saw other people fall down, and they started running when they heard cries that the bridge was going to collapse," city police chief Touch Naroth told AP Television News on Wednesday.

In the wake of public anger, police said they may have concentrated too much on pickpockets and overcrowded boats, and lost sight of the size of the crowd. Some earlier reports had the death toll higher than current estimates, but authorities say that was because of overlapping numbers from different institutions.

Country at near standstill

Flags flew at half-mast and many schools and businesses throughout the country were closed so people could take part in the memorial or watch it on television. A military band played sombre music and uniformed school children carried flowers as the victims' families looked on.

Later in the day, members of the public were allowed to come up to an altar that had been set up for the memorial, laying gifts of fruit, rice and water, which are considered sustenance for the spirits of the dead.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, pay their respects to stampede victims on a day of mourning in Phnom Penh. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, pay their respects to stampede victims on a day of mourning in Phnom Penh. (Chor Sokunthea/Reuters)

The stampede happened during an annual water festival marking the end of the monsoon season that attracts approximately two million people to the city.

Officials announced Thursday that a permanent memorial will be created either on or near the bridge, to mark the biggest tragedy since the reign of the communist Khmer Rouge, which killed an estimated 1.7-million in the late 1970s.

Some early reports had suggested that some of the dead had been electrocuted, but a member of the government's investigating committee said there were no signs of that. The committee is expected to release its final report next week.

Holy Jolie: Cambodian temple takes Angelina's name

Hindu leader says locals now call 12th-century site the 'Angelina Jolie Temple' following 2000 shooting of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The 'Angelina Jolie Temple'

Name drop ... the temple at Ta Prohm – now commonly referred to as the 'Angelina Jolie Temple', according to a local religious leader. Photograph: Alamy

Angelina Jolie may not have charmed all the locals at her most recent filming location but the people of Cambodia, where she shot Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2000, are said to have renamed a temple after her.

  1. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
  2. Production year: 2000
  3. Countries: Rest of the world, USA
  4. Cert (UK): 12
  5. Runtime: 101 mins
  6. Directors: Simon West, Stephen Herek
  7. Cast: Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Iain Glen, Jon Voight
  8. More on this film

Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, told the WENN news agency that the star is so beloved in Cambodia a world-famous Hindu religious site in Angkor has been renamed the "Angelina Jolie Temple".

"It's a 12th-century site called Ta Prohm; it is otherwise known as Old Brahma and was initially named Rajavihara or the royal monastery," he said. "Now it's popularly called the Angelina Jolie Temple."

The building was the setting for various scenes in Tomb Raider – in which Jolie, as Lara Croft, battled a secret society called the Illuminati for possession of an ancient talisman. Today, local restaurants sell a Tomb Raider cocktail (Cointreau, lime and soda – said to be Jolie's tipple of choice). Meanwhile, the actor's son Maddox was born in the Siem Reap province in which the temple complex is located.

Jolie's unofficial honour appeared to come with responsibilities, as Zed called on the actor to use her public profile and her status as "the patron saint of Cambodia" to help conserve the site. He added: "I'd urge Angelina Jolie to raise awareness about better preservation of this world heritage, as more needs to be done to safeguard the temple complex and its surroundings [and] save it from vandalism and looting."

Cambodia Expresses "Collective Grief" For Stampede Victims

As part of the remembrance, a religious ceremony was held at the footbridge near the capital, Phnom Penh, where the catastrophe occurred. Hun lit incense sticks and laid a floral wreath near the bridge while a military band played in the background. Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials were among those who paid their respects.

Hun Sen also promised that the government would build a memorial "to commemorate the souls of the people who lost their lives in the incident... and to remember the serious tragedy for the nation and the Cambodian people."

(RTTNews) - Cambodia on Thursday observed a national day of mourning for victims of Monday's stampede, which killed as many as 350 people, it is learnt.

A sombre-looking Prime Minister Hun Sen led the nation in paying tributes to the memory of those crushed to death in the second worst incident of its kind in recent history.

The incident occurred as several thousand Cambodians converged on Diamond Island near Phnom Penh on the last day of the "Water Festival," a major event in the Southeast Asian nation's social calendar.

Panic set in after a music concert on the Island which was preceded by a boat race on Tonle Sap river.

Survivors and relatives of victims though blamed authorities for causing the commotion by blocking a second entry point and for the slack response.

A preliminary probe into the stampede found that a swaying suspension bridge caused revelers to panic. Local media had reported that the inquiry panel, consisting of cabinet ministers and senior officials, concluded that many of those on the suspension bridge were rural folks and did not know that bridges like these swayed in the wind when used by large crowds.

Furthermore the committee found that the mounting death toll was also due to several of the revelers getting asphyxiated.

The Cambodian government had initially put the toll at 456 killed but this has since been revised.

According to Hun, the stampede was the biggest human tragedy witnessed in the country since the cold-blooded mass killings carried out by the Pol Pot led Khmer Rouge regime in the seventies.

It has been dwarfed only by the 2005 stampede in Iraqi capital, Baghdad, which claimed the lives of over 1000 Muslim Shias.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com

Cambodia mourns Water Festival dead

Crowds of mourners in Cambodia have offered flowers and incense at the site of a stampede that killed 347 people. The government declared a national day of mourning yesterday to honour those who died in the stampede, which was reportedly caused by fears that overcrowded bridge was about to collapse. A tearful Prime Minister Hun Sen, dressed in black, burnt incense at the foot of the narrow bridge, as he led the country at a short service. The stampede took place on the last day of the Water Festival. Questions are yet to be answered as to exactly what went wrong, but survivors say there was not enough security.


Presenter: Robert Carmichael
Speakers: Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh; Hy Sophan, bridge survivor; Kuth Vy, bridge survivor

CARMICHAEL: Cambodia held a day of mourning Thursday for 347 people who were crushed to death or suffocated when thousands of people were trapped on a 5-metre-wide pedestrian bridge earlier this week.

A number of ceremonies took place at the bridge that links mainland Phnom Penh across a narrow river to the entertainment area known as Diamond Island.

Thousands came throughout the day to place wreaths and flowers, and to burn incense in memory of those who died. Flags across the country were flown at half-mast.

People discussed the events of Monday evening, standing on the riverbank next to the 100-metre long suspension bridge, which had been cleared of thousands of personal effects - sandals, clothes, water bottles - in time for the ceremony.

It was a very different scene when I reached the bridge before midnight on Monday evening. Witnesses told me the crush had happened around two hours earlier.

I'm standing on the bridge and there are dozens of dead people lying on the ground here. It's impossible to count because actually there's probably another 30-40 metres of bridge, and they've only cleared the bodies off this first stretch of it. I mean there's easily 40 people dead, easily, and there are a lot of police and ambulances and military, but this is all far, far, far too late.

Survivors have spoken of a lack of security to control crowds, an issue taken up the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, which noted a clear failure on that score by the authorities.

The government's interim investigation report says between seven and eight thousand people were crammed onto the bridge, and claims people panicked when it began to sway.

At Thursday's ceremony, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said the bridge could not convey that many people.

CHUKTEMA: And that's why this happen this disaster - it is the very worst. And on behalf, on my position as the governor of Phnom Penh I am very sorry to our people and our family.

CARMICHAEL: There are hundreds of injured.

Survivors at Phnom Penh's Calmette Hospital told harrowing stories of narrow escapes, a terrible crush and a lack of oxygen.

One 19-year-old man said he had tried to hold a child above him so the boy could breathe, even though he was struggling to get enough air himself.

But older people then told youngsters like him they had to jump off the bridge into the river to try and create space.

So he gave the child back, squirmed his way to the edge, and jumped. He said the woman and her two children probably died.

Others told how relatives and friends were killed.

Lying on a rattan mat in the corridor, a drip in his arm, garment worker, Kuth Vy, said he was crossing the bridge with four female colleagues from work when they became trapped. He hasn't seen them since.

Another garment worker, 17-year-old Hy Sophan, was crossing the bridge with relatives, and they too became trapped, unable to move forward or back. Although she cannot swim, she jumped into the river in a desperate bid to escape the crush. Others dragged her to shore.

HY SOPHAN: I will never go to it again. After having seen what happened I am really scared. Next year I will stay at home and won't even go out for a walk.

CARMICHAEL: Forty-year-old construction worker So Phum, recovering on a mat in the hospital corridor, spoke for many.

SO PHUM: In my opinion the government must focus on better security. In my whole life I never saw anything like that.

CARMICHAEL: Governor Kep Chuktema promises it will.

KEP CHUKTEMA: It is a very big lesson for me, for my authority. We will organise the big Water Festival with the big way to secure the people, because the Water Festival mean for Cambodia is a very big festival.

CARMICHAEL: The government will next week release its final report on this disaster, but it seems clear that nobody is prepared to take responsibility.

The government blames the developer of the Diamond Island entertainment centre for failing to provide enough security. The developer says security was the government's concern.

While the squabbling goes on, the dead have been reclaimed by their families and cremated, and the injured fill the capital's hospitals.

Across Cambodia, the nation is in shock that this happened, and that it took place during the Water Festival, typically a time of joyous celebration.

The government says it will build a memorial at the site. Survivor So Phum has a different idea.

SO PHUM: As far as I am concerned we should demolish that bridge in order to prevent future problems. Although it is a newly-constructed bridge, it has killed so many people. So we should destroy it.

Questions Remain in Cambodia Crush


Justin Mott for The New York Times

People visited the site of the bridge stampede in Phnom Penh on Thursday, paying their respect by offering flowers and prayers and burning incense.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — More than two days after hundreds of people died in a huge, tightly packed crowd on the last night of a water festival, both the cause and the death toll remained unclear on Thursday.

Mourners offered prayers for the victims of the bridge stampede in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Most of the victims were caught in a crush on a small bridge. Rather than being trampled, the victims suffocated or were crushed to death by a dense, immobile crowd in which some people were trapped for hours.

Various officials gave different counts of the death toll, which may not include victims who drowned or were taken from the scene.

On Wednesday, the government said that at least 350 people had died and that 400 had been injured. But among other tallies on Thursday, a newspaper, The Phnom Penh Post, citing government sources, said the death toll had climbed to 456.

As grief and shock turned to demands for explanations, questions continued to grow over the cause of the crush, over the response by the police and over the city’s readiness to handle an influx of as many as three million people for the festival.

A preliminary government investigation reported that the mostly rural festival-goers panicked when the suspension bridge began to sway slightly under the weight of the crowd.

This conformed to a report by a military police investigator, Sawannara Chendamirie, who said on the morning after the disaster that survivors told him there had been shouts that the bridge was collapsing.

There were also questions about whether some people had been electrocuted, possibly by strings of lights on the fretwork of the bridge. Reports to that effect began immediately after the disaster, with some saying the police fired water hoses at the crowd that might have contributed to the problem.

Doctors at the city’s main hospital, Calmette, did not rule out that possibility, but said they had seen no sign of electrocution among either the injured or the dead. But they said most of the injured had suffered from the squeezing of the packed crowd. Some patients at the hospital said they had been unable to breathe and had passed out.

The police came under criticism for a failure of crowd management and for an inadequate and incompetent response to the disaster. One officer said only half the officially reported number of police officers were actually deployed. Seriously injured survivors reported being dumped into vehicles together with the dead.

The government did quickly mobilize help for relatives of victims, many of whom traveled from distant provinces to claim the dead. Tables were set up near a makeshift morgue to confirm identities. Military trucks offered transportation home for coffins and family members. The morgue was all but cleared within a day, although some people wandered the hospital grounds holding snapshots of missing relatives.

The Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hong Kong, issued a report that documented the questions and criticisms.

“While the exact cause of the stampede last night remains unclear, with contradictory reports indicating it may have been instigated by either crowd antics or poor construction of the bridge to Koh Pich Island, the failure of the state to control the crowd and limit the damage from the stampede is clear,” the report said.

“It is clear, too, that Phnom Penh was unprepared for any large-scale disaster,” the report said. “Responses by police and military were lacking and may even have contributed to the stampede while hospitals were overwhelmed. Emergency and medical personnel resorted to piling bodies together, covering them with mats or sheets.”

Probe finds bridge sway set off Cambodian stampede

Bun Oun, who lost his daughter in Monday's stampede, cries during her cremation at Sombourmeas temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Wednesday. Photo: AP.
Bun Oun, who lost his daughter in Monday's stampede, cries during her cremation at Sombourmeas temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Wednesday. Photo: AP.

An investigation into a stampede at a festival in the Cambodian capital that killed hundreds of revelers has initially concluded that it was set off when a crowded bridge started swaying, local media reported on Wednesday.

Bayon TV, which serves as a mouthpiece for the government, said that the high—level committee set up to probe the Monday night tragedy found that many of the people on the bridge were from the countryside and unaware that it was normal for a suspension bridge to sway. In their fear it was collapsing, they tried to run off.

Officials have said that 378 people were killed and at least 755 others injured in the stampede. The TV report, however, amended the number of casualties to 750, of whom 350 died. The reason for the discrepancy in the figures was not immediately clear.

The report said the committee based its conclusion on the cause of the stampede from investigations and testimony of witnesses. It happened when tens of thousands of panicked people tried to flee an island in the Bassac River in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Witnesses have criticized authorities for causing congestion by blocking a second bridge across the river despite the huge crowds that had gathered for the festival, and for a slow and confused emergency response.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has described the stampede as the biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, which left an estimated 1.7 million people dead in the late 1970s. He has declared a day of national mourning on Thursday.

Survivors tell of Cambodia stampede ordeal

By Tim Johnston and Elaine Moore in Phnom Penh

A picture of Peng Seriwattana, 15, a schoolboy with unruly hair and a direct stare, sat on a table. He had promised to be home by 8.30pm on Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon his body was laid out under a sheet in a temple, his young cousin burning squares of gold paper on an altar in the hope he would have a prosperous afterlife.

Peng Seriwattana was one of at least 378 people killed and more than 755 injured in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, on Monday night when thousands of people leaving an island water festival stampeded on a narrow bridge.

Some survivors spoke of trampling bodies and others of throwing themselves into the shallow water of the Bassac river to escape the crush.

“Many people were trying to move but they couldn’t. There was no air and I felt myself standing on other people,” said Cho Vannath, 21, a student teacher, who described screaming and the whistles of stewards as they tried to channel the revellers.

Local television stations showed footage of desperate, bare-chested men struggling to pull the living from piles of dead on the narrow 50-metre bridge between Koh Pich, an island in the Bassac river, and Phnom Penh proper.

Paul Hurford, an Australian firefighter working with the Cambodian emergency services, said it took him at least 35 minutes to work his way through the crowd to the bridge.

“It is fairly confronting to see 300-plus casualties in an area less than 100 square metres,” he said.

“We were working on the worst ones, those with very faint pulses. We worked on five or six who were very borderline and unfortunately lost them all.”

Hospitals reported that the primary sources of death were asphyxiation, drowning and internal bleeding. They also said that about two-thirds of those who died were women, who may have been less able to extricate themselves from the crowd.

Thousands of people had gathered on Koh Pich to watch a concert and celebrate Bon Om Touk, a festival marking the end of the rainy season which peaks on the night of the full moon with hundreds of traditional boats racing down the river.

It is the biggest festival in the Cambodian calendar, attracting 3m people to the capital, including thousands of tourists, although no foreigners are thought to be among the dead.

The stampede broke out as people were trying to leave the celebrations on the island. Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, was on Koh Pich but left using the only other bridge just before disaster struck.

He estimated that there were 1.5m people on the 100 hectare island. Concerts had just ended at both ends of the bridge and those in the middle were caught with no escape.

“It is a suspension bridge and it started swinging a bit, and the people were not used to it: they started shouting that the was bridge collapsing,” Mr Siphan said.

There were also reports of people being frightened by sparks from the festive lights that deck the bridge, but whatever the cause, survivors say the crowd was soon gripped by panic.

“I tried to get out but couldn’t,” said Soh Pheak, 23, a construction worker with a drip in his arm and water in his lungs who, like dozens of other survivors, was squatting on a thin mat in a corridor of Phnom Penh’s overstretched Calmette hospital. “In the end, I climbed the railings and jumped into the river.”

Boats were still trawling the murky waters of the Bassac on Tuesday afternoon searching for bodies.

In the morning, distraught families were searching through rows of numbered dead laid out in tents in the city’s hospitals: A134, a young woman in an orange T-shirt with sequins; A042, a young man in a white shirt and bleached jeans. A man sobbed over the body of his son, trying unsuccessfully to get the stiffening hands to hold some incense sticks. Families, united in tight knots of distress, tried to make sense of their loss.

Hun Sen, the prime minister, declared a day of mourning and said there would be an inquiry into the causes of the disaster. “This is the biggest tragedy we have experienced in the last 31 years, since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said.

Mr Hurford had a simple explanation. “The bottom line,” he said, “is that there were far too many people in one place.”

Thai PM sends condolences to families of victims in Cambodian festival tragedy


BANGKOK, Nov 23 - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday extended condolences to Cambodian premier Hun Sen to the families of hundreds of lives lost in a stampede at the annual water festival in Cambodia.

The stampede occurred Monday on a narrow bridge, greatly overcrowded, in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

"On behalf of the Government and people of Thailand, I wish to extend my sincere condolences and sympathy to you and, through you, to the bereaved families of the victims in this tragic incident.

"My thoughts are with the people of Cambodia in this difficult time. The Thai Government is ready to provide support and assistance to our friends in Cambodia,” Mr Abhisit said in the statement to his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

Thailand Tuesday offered an initial 30,000 dollars in emergency aid to Cambodia following the deadly tragedy.

At least 378 people were killed in a stampede on Koh Pich Bridge at the annual festival for the Great Lake, a Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday, adding that the number of casualties was still rising.

Many of the deaths were caused by suffocation and internal injuries, reports indicated, some 755 more people injured in Monday’s tragedy. (MCOT online news)

‘Quarantine’/‘Devil’ Directors To Helm Pretty Racist-Sounding Cambodian Horror Movie ‘The Coup’


Horror directors John and Drew Dowdle are no strangers to controversy. They first came to the attention of the genre crowd back in 2007 with “The Poughkeepsie Tapes,” a found-footage serial killer picture that went down so badly with a crowd of horror geeks at a now-legendary screening during Ain’t It Cool’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon Festival, that it’s barely seen the light of day since.

However, the film’s notoriety landed them the gig of remaking Spanish zombie hit “[Rec],” which was criticized by many fans for being a near shot-for-shot remake of the original, and they didn’t exactly win over their critics with a collaboration with M. Night Shyamalan on the chronically stupid “Devil” a few months back. Now there’s news of their next film, and it sounds like it could make earlier controversies seem insignificant in comparison.

The directors revealed at Comic-Con back in 2008 that they were hoping their next film would be a self-penned effort called “The Coup,” and Bloody Disgusting has revealed that the film’s finally moving forward with backing from Lionsgate and should go in front of cameras next year. The plot, the brothers revealed back in the day, revolves around an American couple and their two young children who move to Cambodia just as a coup overthrows the government. The family then have to try and escape an environment where any foreigners are being immediately executed.

And therein lies the rub: John Dowdle told the site when the film was originally announced that “it’s very realistic, like a real world zombie movie. Anybody who sees [the family]... they’re dead. It’s not a zombie movie, but it has that vibe. They have to hide in crowds, get out. It’s pretty horrific.” Maybe we’re being a little oversensitive here, but an American family, fleeing a mob of Asians (compared to zombies, no less) who mindlessly want to kill any foreigners? Unless you were someone who thought the Somalians in “Black Hawk Down” were overly three-dimensional, that seems a little bit racist.

If we had more faith in the helmers, than we’d be less quick to judge here, but they’ve shown a general lack of taste and judgment in their work so far, and we wouldn’t trust them to handle this premise with much delicacy (particularly as the project was announced, in a monumentally insensitive piece of timing, on the day on which 350 people died in a stampede at a water festival in Cambodia. Good one guys!).

Nevertheless, Lionsgate seem to be high on the project, so filming will likely get underway some time next year.

Cambodian temple named after Jolie


WENN.COM)">
Angelina Jolie (WENN.COM)

Angelina Jolie has been handed a major unofficial honour in her adopted son Maddox’s native Cambodia - a world-famous Hindu temple has been named after her.

Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, tells WENN the movie star is so beloved in Cambodia one religious site in Angkor has been renamed the Angelina Jolie Temple.

He says, "It's a 12th century site called Ta Prohm; it is otherwise known as Old Brahma and was initially named Rajavihara or the royal monastery. Now it's popularly called the Angelina Jolie Temple.

"It was said to be the setting for various scenes in the first Tomb Raider film... Local restaurants sell Tomb Raider cocktails and she appears to be the patron saint of Cambodia."

Zed insists the unofficial renaming comes with a great responsibility - and he'd like the actress to consider helping to maintain the ancient site.

He adds, "I'd urge Angelina Jolie to raise awareness about better preservation of this world heritage as more needs to be done to safeguard the temple complex and its surroundings, save it from vandalism and looting."

Cambodia to build stupa to commemorate dead in stampede

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government decided to build a stupa to commemorate the dead from the stampede Monday night at Diamond Island bridge, a letter signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said.

"A stupa must be built to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the accident at the Diamond Island bridge on Nov. 22, 2010 in order to remember this worst tragedy for the nation and Cambodians," said the letter.

The letter arranged Phnom Penh municipality to select the location to build it and Ministry of Council of Ministers, the Finance Ministry, the Interior Ministry, Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Ministry, Water Resources Ministry, and relevant ministries must comply with this decision.

The stampede tragedy on Monday night at the Diamond Island bridge killed 456 people during the last day of the water festival. Cambodia's Water Festival from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22 is the largest annual festival in the Southeast Asian nation, around 2 million Cambodians, especially those from rural areas converged in the city to enjoy the regatta.

Editor: Yang Lina



Cause of deadly Cambodia stampede still unknown

A Cambodian man carries the body of his son killed in a stampede, at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP / Sakchai Lalit)

A Cambodian man carries the body of his son killed in a stampede, at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP / Sakchai Lalit)

Updated: Tue Nov. 23 2010 5:08:21 PM

The Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — At the bridge where investigators poked though the debris of a disaster -- abandoned flip-flops and sneakers, water bottles, pieces of sugar cane -- Chea Chan lit a Buddhist memorial offering of incense, coconut and lotus flowers, and wept.

The 28-year-old had tried to grab his younger brother during the riverside stampede that left at least 378 dead Monday night, but he was pushed against the support poles of the narrow suspension bridge. His little brother fell down and immediately was crushed under four or five other falling people.

He found his dead sibling at a local hospital, with a broken neck and crushed face. "I'm totally in shock," he said.

The victims were trampled when a crowd celebrating a holiday panicked for reasons that remained unknown Tuesday. The prime minister's special adviser, Om Yentieng, denied reports that it was sparked by a mass food poisoning, or by people being electrocuted by lighting cables.

Don Saron, 26, said she was walking across the bridge when people began shouting that it was going to collapse. She tripped and felt the crowds trampling over her face and chest.

"People were just walking here and there and all of sudden, people started to run," she said as she awaited treatment Tuesday at Calmette Hospital. She grimaced in pain as she leaned against a gurney on which she had just woken up nearly 20 hours after being caught in the stampede.

"I shouldn't have been there. Why did I come to this festival, this ceremony?" she said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen described the stampede on Koh Pich -- Diamond Island -- as the biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, which left an estimated 1.7 million people dead in the late 1970s.

He declared Thursday a day of national mourning.

City police chief Touch Naroth said investigators were still trying to determine the cause but suggested that the bridge's small size may have contributed to the tragedy. "This is a lesson for us," he said on state TV.

State television showed horrific footage of the stampede, with thousands of twisted bodies -- both dead and alive -- piled atop each other, some screaming for help and grasping for hands as rescuers struggled to pull limp bodies out of the pile. Other rescuers fanned them with cardboard boxes.

On Tuesday, crowds jammed the sidewalk outside Calmette Hospital, looking for familiar faces in photos posted of unidentified victims.

Survivors recounted desperate struggles on the bridge to the island in one of the rivers running past Phnom Penh, where a huge crowd had come to celebrate the last night of a three-day holiday marking the end of rainy season. As many as 2 million people are believed to have come to the capital, and many sought to grab a final few hours of fun at a concert following the traditional boat races.

The crush of people was intense. A witness, soft drink vendor So Cheata, said about 10 people suddenly fell unconscious. Panic surged through the crowd, which pushed onto the gaily lit yellow-and-grey bridge, which was already packed with people.

Imran, an events planner from Sri Lanka who asked not to use his last name for fear of angering Cambodian clients, said he pulled at least 12 bodies from the crush. People began handing him limp children as young as 5 or 6, and bodies -- dead or unconscious -- covered so much of the ground in front of his stand that people had to walk over them.

Some victims complained of being electrocuted, Imran said, possibly from the wiring for the lights on the bridge, though it was unclear if the electricity had killed people or merely shocked them.

At least 755 people were injured, but government spokesman Phay Siphan said that number and the death toll could rise. Authorities said there were no foreigners among the dead or injured.

Rescuers were overwhelmed as they had to quickly pick out the dead from the living, and try to help the survivors.

"I've never come across something with such mass casualties ... in such a small area," said Paul Hurford, an Australian firefighter who runs a charity training firefighters in Cambodia and was among those called to help. "This was a devastating situation, no matter how you look at it."

Imran complained of a slow and confused response from police and medical services. He said that at one point when the cityside part of the bridge was still choked with victims, military police yelled through loudspeakers that the bridge was on fire. Some police officers also carried away unconscious victims with their heads banging against the pavement, he said.

Hun Sen ordered an investigation into the disaster and said the government would pay the families of each dead victim 5 million riel ($1,250) for funeral expenses and provide 1 million riel ($250) for each injured person.

Located on the Tonle Bassac river in southeastern Phnom Penh, Koh Pich is a former slum community that was handed over in 2006 to a company controlled by Pung Khiav Se, a tycoon connected to Hun Sen. The development, budgeted at hundreds of millions of dollars, is planned to have high-rise buildings, including what is supposed to be Asia's tallest skyscraper. It is currently much more modest, with cafes, amusement park rides and other structures.

Charles Vann, a spokesman for Pung Khiav Se, called the stampede "an accident, nothing more than an accident."

"This is no one's fault," he said. "No one could have expected this to happen."


Officials probe fatal stampede in Cambodia

Hundreds killed after mayhem on bridge after Water Festival

Relatives cry at Preah Kossamak Hospital, where the bodies of stampede victims are laid, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Tuesday. (Associated Press)Relatives cry at Preah Kossamak Hospital, where the bodies of stampede victims are laid, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Tuesday. (Associated Press)

BANGKOK | Cambodian officials are investigating why thousands of revelers panicked during a festival in Phnom Penh on Monday and stampeded across a narrow bridge, killing at least 378 people and injuring scores more.

Emergency teams, survivors and distraught relatives and friends desperately searched on Tuesday among corpses strewn on the bridge and floating in the river.

Many of the dead were later laid on the ground in rows, under white cloth, at hospitals before being packed into coffins for cremation.

Police wearing white rubber gloves gently lifted the hands of the dead and pushed their limp fingertips onto blackened ink pads and then onto paper, for identification records.

Authorities also posted photographs of victims for public viewing, hoping to identify the dead and injured.

A Cambodian woman looks for her missing relative at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. The prime minister called the disaster the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (Associated Press)A Cambodian woman looks for her missing relative at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. The prime minister called the disaster the country's biggest tragedy since the 1970s reign of terror by the Khmer Rouge. (Associated Press)

The tragedy occurred Monday night during the final celebration of the three-day Water Festival, which marks the end of the tropical rainy season in the impoverished Buddhist-majority country.

Trapped on a 250-acre island in the Tonle Bassac River where the festival was staged, hundreds of people tried to flee across the short, narrow bridge, but began shoving and trampling each other in a melee, while others jumped or fell into the murky water below.

Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naroth said investigators were still trying to determine the cause but suggested that the bridge's small size may have contributed to the tragedy, the Associated Press reported. "This is a lesson for us," he said on state TV.

Some witnesses said trouble began when a handful of people fainted because of the heat and physical pressure of the large crowd, causing others to nervously try to escape.

Some of the crushed victims writhed in agony, too weak to free themselves from the corpses and injured people who were piled on top of them on the bridge, but rescuers were able to yank some people out alive.

Families seek Cambodia stampede victims

Alastair Leithead: "Suddenly everyone was stampeding, trying to get out of that very confined space"

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Families in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh have been scouring morgues and hospitals in search of relatives missing after a deadly stampede.

Search teams have also been trawling a river for bodies after the crush on a footbridge left at least 378 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Prime Minister Hun Sen declared Thursday a day of mourning and promised an investigation into the disaster.

The stampede happened on the final day of the traditional Water Festival.

Witnesses said the bridge had become overcrowded.

Hun Sen described the stampede as the "biggest tragedy" to hit Cambodia since the mass killings carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.

He has ordered all government ministries to fly the national flag at half-mast.

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At the Preah Kossamak hospital, San Supa told how she discovered that her daughter and son-in-law had died in the stampede.

"They both told me that they wanted to watch the light boat parade at night and then they went missing and I came straight away to the hospital and I found out that they died," she said.

Another woman, Sem Sreyleak, said she had been scouring makeshift morgues and the city's hospitals looking for her niece.

"She came to Phnom Penh a day before the Water Festival started. There is still no news about her," she said.

The bridge crosses the Bassac river, which on Tuesday was being searched for victims believed to have drowned after falling into the water.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said 755 people had been injured and warned that the death toll could rise further. No foreigners were said to be among those killed.

'Sudden panic'

Authorities had estimated that more than two million people would attend the three-day festival, one of the main events of the year in Cambodia.

Panic broke out after a concert on Diamond Island, which followed a boat race on the Tonle Sap river regarded as a highlight of the festivities.

Sean Ngu, an Australian who was visiting family and friends in Cambodia, told the BBC too many people had been on the bridge.

He said some of the victims were electrocuted.

"There were too many people on the bridge and then both ends were pushing," he said.

"This caused a sudden panic. The pushing caused those in the middle to fall to the ground, then [get] crushed.

"Panic started and at least 50 people jumped in the river. People tried to climb on to the bridge, grabbing and pulling [electric] cables which came loose and electrical shock caused more deaths."

Funerals have already been held for some of those killed in the stampede

Khon Sros told Reuters news agency from her hospital bed that the area had been packed.

"People were pushing each other and I fell," she said. "People were shouting 'go, go'."

The 19-year-old said she had been pinned in the crowd from her waist down until police pulled her out.

"One man died near me. He was weak and didn't have enough air."

A day after the disasters, sunglasses, flip-flops and brightly coloured clothes lay scattered on the bridge.

Revellers watched as the bodies of youths in party clothes were carried away from the bridge, which was still decked with bright lights from the festival.

Many of the dead appeared to be teenagers.

The stampede is the world's worst since August 2005, when more than 1,000 Shia pilgrims were crushed to death or drowned in the Tigris river in Baghdad, Iraq, after rumours of a suicide bomb attack sparked a panic.

Scenes of grief amid Cambodia crush carnage

People search picture boards for missing relatives Relatives are searching picture boards outside hospitals for missing loved ones

Calmette Hospital is rarely a happy place at the best of times. It may be Phnom Penh's flagship healthcare centre but facilities are basic.

Now the Diamond Island bridge disaster may have turned it into the saddest corner of Cambodia.

Most of those injured in the crush on Diamond Island bridge were brought there, more than 700 of them - a serious challenge for the limited facilities of Calmette and several other Phnom Penh hospitals.

Patients and staff were forced to improvise. The injured lay on the floor if no bed was available, or stayed in the corridors if there was no room in the wards.

But it was not only the wounded who were brought to Calmette. Many of the hundreds who died came as well.

Start Quote

Doun looks for her brother

I have looked all over and we haven't heard from him. I am losing hope that he is alive”

End Quote Doun Searching for brother

They were laid out in rows inside a number of the city's hospitals. There were also picture boards outside, where people could perform the potentially heart-breaking task of looking for missing friends and relatives.

The boards made for gruesome viewing. The bodies had been laid on bamboo mats, and head-and-shoulders photos taken. Most of the victims had their eyes closed, but a few of them stared blankly into the lens - suggesting life when it had already been extinguished.

Doun was looking for her younger brother, who had not returned home. She had already been to several other hospitals. Now she was scanning the picture board of the dead outside Calmette Hospital.

She looked in vain. A measure of relief for Doun - perhaps her brother was still alive - but frustration and despair as well.

"I have looked all over and we haven't heard from him," she said. "I am losing hope that he is alive."

Others have already discovered their worst fears are true.

On the night of the disaster, a convoy of emergency vehicles shuttled the dead and injured to Calmette. Now the traffic is going the other way, as the bodies are being claimed and taken away in coffins by funeral vehicles.

Srey Luch Srey Luch visited the scene of the disaster to pay her respects

At sunset on the evening following the disaster, police barriers held scores of people back from the scene at Diamond Island. The crowd seemed to be a mixture of the curious, the distressed and those who simply wished to pay their respects to the dead.

Srey Luch arrived at the barrier bearing flowers, incense and prayer candles. She was from Kandal province, close to Phnom Penh, and she knew a number of people who were hurt or missing.

"I want to bless the people who died and those who were injured," she said.

The bridge which was the focus of the carnage looks like an illustration from a fairytale - all turrets and twinkling fairy-lights. But it is barely wide enough to accommodate two cars side by side - and woefully inadequate for the numbers celebrating the Water Festival on Diamond Island.

On the night of the disaster the bridge was closed to vehicles. But the human traffic proved overwhelming.

Diamond Island bridge Witnesses say the bridge was overcrowded but what triggered the stampede is not clear

The cause of the panic was not immediately apparent. Electric shocks from the lights, fights among young people and fears that the structure was about to collapse have all been put forward.

Prime Minster Hun Sen has promised a thorough investigation and the authorities may be helped by footage from a TV network which was broadcasting a live music performance from a stage just yards from the bridge.

Thanks to its three decades of civil war and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge era, Cambodia has a reputation as a place where awful things happen. But many of its mostly young population have grown up with peace and relative prosperity, and have never experienced a disaster before.

A waiter in a local cafe feared the anguish may be about to spread. Most of the visitors to the Water Festival are from the rural provinces and some families would only realise their daughters or sons might have been caught in the crush when they failed to return home.

That raises the possibility of bodies going unclaimed for days and the agony of loss continuing as families arrive in the capital in search of the missing.

The picture of the stamped in Cambodia



































Image: Women cry as they prepare to carry home the body of a loved one
Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP - Getty Images
Women cry as they prepare to carry home the body of their loved one among victims of the stampede placed in a makeshift morgue inside the Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh Tuesday.
msnbc.com news services msnbc.com news services
updated 2 hours 9 minutes ago 2010-11-23T11:38:05

Rescuers trawled a muddy river Tuesday for more bodies and Cambodia prepared for a day of mourning following a stampede by thousands of festival-goers which left at least 378 dead and hundreds of injured.

The prime minister called it the country's biggest tragedy since the murderous 1970s reign of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

A panic-stricken crowd — celebrating the end of the rainy season on an island in a river — tried to flee over a narrow bridge in the capital Phnom Penh late Monday.

Many people were crushed underfoot or fell over its sides into the water. About 755 people were injured.

Disoriented victims struggled to find an escape hatch through the human mass, pushing their way in every direction.

After the stampede, bodies were stacked upon bodies on the bridge as rescuers swarmed the area.

The search for the dead in and along the Bassac River continued Tuesday as horrific footage of the night before aired on state television, showing twisted bodies — both alive and dead — piled on one another.

As if trapped in sand
Some writhed as they desperately reached out with their hands, the footage showed, screaming for help and grasping for rescuers who struggled to pull limp bodies from the pile as if they were trapped in sand or snow.

It remained unclear what sparked the stampede. Police and witnesses pointed to the narrow bridge as providing inadequate access to and from the island.

Two Singaporean businessmen who organized a sound-and-light show for the festival, said authorities had closed another bridge earlier in the day, forcing tens of thousands of people to use a single span.

There were reports that before the stampede shouts had been heard that some people had been electrocuted. Police said some also shouted that the bridge was about to collapse.

"People were shouting that someone had been electrocuted, to run back," Touch Loch, 18, told Reuters. "I fell and people stepped on me until I passed out. When I woke I was here in hospital. People were crying for their fathers and mothers."

Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, denied anyone was electrocuted on the bridge, which was adorned with flashing lights.

He said it was designed to sway, but the movement took pedestrians by surprise and some shouted it was broken.

"The cause was panic, not electrocution," he told reporters who gathered in front of the bridge, which was littered with shoes and clothing left by victims.

Khon Sros, 19, said from her hospital bed some people had leapt off the bridge to escape but she had been pinned in the crowd from her waist down until police pulled her out.

"One man died near me. He was weak and didn't have enough air," she said.

'I thought I would die'
One witness said the trouble started when several people fell unconscious in the press of the crowd. Another survivor said he heard a police siren just before the panic erupted.

"I was taken by shock. I thought I would die on the spot. Those who were strong enough escaped, but women and children died," said Chea Srey Lak, a 27-year-old woman who was knocked over by the panicked crowd on the bridge.

She managed to escape but described a woman, about 60 years old, lying next to her who was trampled to death by hundreds of fleeing feet.

"There were cries and calls for help from everywhere, but nobody could help each other. Everyone just ran," she said at Calmette Hospital, where she was being treated for leg and hand injuries.

Touch Theara, 38, said she had been stuck in the crowd for three hours: "I thought I was dead ... Police sprayed water at us. We were just opening our mouths to drink."

Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for the disaster and ordered an investigation as television footage showed relatives weeping over bodies of the dead piled one on top of the other.

"This is the biggest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime," he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge, whose agrarian revolution from 1975-1979 killed an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia under

Cambodia mourns worst tragedy since Pol Pot's murderous regime

'Those who were strong enough escaped, but women and children died,' survivor who watched elderly woman trampled to death says

Image: Women cry as they prepare to carry home the body of a loved one
Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP - Getty Images
Women cry as they prepare to carry home the body of their loved one among victims of the stampede placed in a makeshift morgue inside the Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh Tuesday.
msnbc.com news services msnbc.com news services
updated 2 hours 9 minutes ago 2010-11-23T11:38:05

Rescuers trawled a muddy river Tuesday for more bodies and Cambodia prepared for a day of mourning following a stampede by thousands of festival-goers which left at least 378 dead and hundreds of injured.

The prime minister called it the country's biggest tragedy since the murderous 1970s reign of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

A panic-stricken crowd — celebrating the end of the rainy season on an island in a river — tried to flee over a narrow bridge in the capital Phnom Penh late Monday.

Many people were crushed underfoot or fell over its sides into the water. About 755 people were injured.

Disoriented victims struggled to find an escape hatch through the human mass, pushing their way in every direction.

After the stampede, bodies were stacked upon bodies on the bridge as rescuers swarmed the area.

The search for the dead in and along the Bassac River continued Tuesday as horrific footage of the night before aired on state television, showing twisted bodies — both alive and dead — piled on one another.

As if trapped in sand
Some writhed as they desperately reached out with their hands, the footage showed, screaming for help and grasping for rescuers who struggled to pull limp bodies from the pile as if they were trapped in sand or snow.

It remained unclear what sparked the stampede. Police and witnesses pointed to the narrow bridge as providing inadequate access to and from the island.

Two Singaporean businessmen who organized a sound-and-light show for the festival, said authorities had closed another bridge earlier in the day, forcing tens of thousands of people to use a single span.

There were reports that before the stampede shouts had been heard that some people had been electrocuted. Police said some also shouted that the bridge was about to collapse.

"People were shouting that someone had been electrocuted, to run back," Touch Loch, 18, told Reuters. "I fell and people stepped on me until I passed out. When I woke I was here in hospital. People were crying for their fathers and mothers."

Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, denied anyone was electrocuted on the bridge, which was adorned with flashing lights.

He said it was designed to sway, but the movement took pedestrians by surprise and some shouted it was broken.

"The cause was panic, not electrocution," he told reporters who gathered in front of the bridge, which was littered with shoes and clothing left by victims.

Khon Sros, 19, said from her hospital bed some people had leapt off the bridge to escape but she had been pinned in the crowd from her waist down until police pulled her out.

"One man died near me. He was weak and didn't have enough air," she said.

'I thought I would die'
One witness said the trouble started when several people fell unconscious in the press of the crowd. Another survivor said he heard a police siren just before the panic erupted.

"I was taken by shock. I thought I would die on the spot. Those who were strong enough escaped, but women and children died," said Chea Srey Lak, a 27-year-old woman who was knocked over by the panicked crowd on the bridge.

She managed to escape but described a woman, about 60 years old, lying next to her who was trampled to death by hundreds of fleeing feet.

"There were cries and calls for help from everywhere, but nobody could help each other. Everyone just ran," she said at Calmette Hospital, where she was being treated for leg and hand injuries.

Touch Theara, 38, said she had been stuck in the crowd for three hours: "I thought I was dead ... Police sprayed water at us. We were just opening our mouths to drink."

Prime Minister Hun Sen apologized for the disaster and ordered an investigation as television footage showed relatives weeping over bodies of the dead piled one on top of the other.

"This is the biggest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime," he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge, whose agrarian revolution from 1975-1979 killed an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia under the command of Pol Pot.

He declared Thursday a day of mourning and said that the government would pay the families of each dead victim 5 million riel ($1,250) for funeral expenses and provide 1 million riel ($250) for each injured person.

The narrow bridge connects Phnom Penh to the man-made Diamond Island, also known as Koh Pich, a commercial park that opened this year.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said some people crossed over a larger vehicle bridge on the opposite end of the island.

Fireworks, dragon boat races
Many of those people attempted to leave by walking back to the mainland over the pedestrian bridge, where they ran into revelers crossing in the opposite direction.

He said police were unable to control the large crowd. "We deployed a lot, but couldn't respond quickly," he said.

The tragedy raised questions about why so many people were allowed to enter such a confined space.

Ahead of the festival, authorities predicted about two million people would flock to Phnom Penh, nearly doubling the city's population.

Revelers traditionally gather on the riverfront to take part in festivities such as dragon boat races and fireworks.

Organizers should have foreseen the danger of holding events for the first time on an island with such limited access, said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Hun Sen ruled out terrorism as a cause for the catastrophe, which took place on the third and final day of the festival, the biggest carnival in a city that was for years starved of entertainment as it recovered from years of war and isolation.

The festival marks the end of the life-giving rains when the swollen Tonle Sap river changes course and begins flowing back out of Cambodia's great lake into the Mekong river.

The stampede was the world's worst since January 2006, when 362 Muslim pilgrims were crushed to death while performing a stoning ritual at the entrance to the Jamarat Bridge near Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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