Cambodia holds day of mourning for stampede dead

Associated Press
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany pray with incenses sticks during a Buddhist ceremony for the victims near the site where people stampeded during Monday's water festival in Phnom Penh, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
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Cambodia's prime minister cried as he lit candles and incense to mourn the hundreds of festival-goers who were trampled to death this week in a riverside stampede

Flags flew at half staff across the country and bars, karaoke parlors and nightclubs shut on the official day of mourning for the tragedy, in which at least 347 people were killed and hundreds more injured. A government investigation has found that thousands of revelers cramming a suspension bridge over the Bassac river Monday night panicked as it began to sway under their weight. Some shouted that the structure was going to collapse, the crowd pushed and heaved, setting off the stampede.

"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.

Om Yentieng, a member of the government's investigating committee, said there were no signs that any of the dead had been electrocuted as some earlier reports suggested.

The committee is expected to release its final report next week, said Om Yentieng.

There has been confusion over the death toll. The latest official casualty tally was 347 dead and 395 injured, down from earlier official figures.

Om Yentieng said earlier casualty figures were not correct due to overlapping of counts by various institutions.

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

The stampede happened during celebrations of a three-day holiday marking the end of the monsoon season, when as many as 2 million people are believed to have come to the capital. As festivities wrapped up Monday night, tens of thousands flocked to a free concert on an island in the Bassac River.

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