Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cambodia reopens bridge

Cambodian Buddhist monks bless with holy water a bridge on which hundreds of people stampeded to death during a water festival last month in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. -- PHOTO: AP

via CAAI

Dec 8, 2010

PHNOM PENH - BUDDHIST monks prayed for happiness and safety on Wednesday at a ceremony to reopen a bridge in the Cambodian capital where at least 353 revelers were trampled to death last month in a riverside stampede.

The two-lane suspension bridge over the Bassac River had been closed since the Nov 22 tragedy, when thousands of festival-goers crammed onto it and panicked when it began to sway, setting off the deadly stampede.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called it the country's biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, which killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.

Five chanting monks joined Phnom Penh's governor, Kep Chuktema, and other officials at a somber event to reopen the bridge for use.

'This accident is a big lesson for us in controlling such a mass of people,' the governor said. 'In the future ... we will have a master plan and not allow a tragedy like this to happen again.' The governor said two more bridges will be built alongside the 100m long bridge to help reduce traffic between the mainland to a small island in the Bassac River, where tens of thousands had flocked for a free concert at the end of a three-day holiday marking the close of the monsoon season.

Preliminary findings by an official investigation committee found that the natural swaying of the bridge ignited fears it would collapse among an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people on the structure. -- AP


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