Cambodia remembered the 347 people who died in a stampede near Diamond Island in Phnom Penh on Monday. Several hundred mourners, along with Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior government officials, gathered on Thursday to pay their respects at the Diamond Island bridge, offering flower wreaths and incense to commemorate the victims.
Prime Minister Sen “broke down in tears” as he placed traditional joss sticks, a special incense burned for ceremonies, on a memorial wreath at the foot of the bridge, the Phom Pehn Post reported.
The tragedy occurred on Monday when a panic broke out on the Diamond Island footbridge following the yearly Water Festival. The minister of Social Affairs released updated information on Thursday that 347 people died, down from the 456 originally reported, and 750 people were injured.
An official said that 90 percent of witnesses saw the stampede begin when people started pushing each other, believing the five-meter-wide pedestrian bridge was about to collapse. The swaying movement of the bridge probably increased the panic as thousands of people pushed to cross it, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chutima said at Thursday’s ceremony that the bridge could not hold the thousands of people who tried to cross it. Human rights groups are criticizing the lack of official crowd control that may have contributed to the tragedy.
A complete investigation into the cause of the stampede is expected next week.