On Monday night-Tuesday morning I got a text from my mate Rory (formerly of Wexford now London). It was a strange text that just said “are you ok text and let me know” of course I had no idea what he was on about until 4am when I heard about what at happened in Phnom Penh.
The news at first (as always) was sketching and there was allot of different information. First I hear was that a bridge had collapsed, then that people at stampeded, later stories about the police using water cannon and some people been electrocuted on the bridge or jumping from it. During this time the numbers varied greatly.
It wasn’t until Tuesday evening when I got back to Phnom Penh that the true extent of the tragedy of Diamond Island became known to me. Over 350 people dead and the same again injured, the majority of them young and female who had gone to Diamond Island on the last night of the Water Festival to a free concert. The bridge which is now called Ghost Bridge became blocked and police and private security company seemed to have no clear plan on how to deal with the numbers of people. The majority of people died from suffocation and others jumped into the river.
This is the biggest loss of live in Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge and there were lots of rumours and stories going around about what happened. There was an ‘investigation’ but no-one has been held responsible with the cause been put down to people panicking. I don’t think there is any way for me to convey the emotions of the city of the people who lost family and friends so I won’t even try. What I have done instead is included links to some of the news coverage.
One of colleagues was telling the week after the event that some people belive someone must die on bridge so that their spirit will protect the bridge and that there are some who think what happened may have been for that reason. The truth is probably that the organisers didn’t realise how many people would be there and did not have the skills or experience to deal with the crowds. One thing that stands out is the police using water cannon which seems incredible. I shall leave it for you decide where you think the blame should be placed but there is no doubt what an sad incident it has been.