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Cambodia Bridge stampede tragedy 339 people death

Cambodia has declared a national day of mourning after more than 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a stampede at a festival crammed with millions of people. The government has order...

Cambodia has declared a national day of mourning after more than 300 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a stampede at a festival crammed with millions of people.

The government has ordered an investigation into the deadly crush on a bridge in the capital, Phnom Penh, where revellers were attending the last day of an annual waterfront festival. Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen has called the stampede the country's biggest tragedy since the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the 1970s. A big crowd watching the water festival panicked when a number of people were apparently electrocuted on the bridge.

Authorities say the dead were either crushed in the resulting stampede or drowned when they fell or jumped into the river. Radio Australia's Robert Carmichael says it is still unclear what caused the stampede. "The eyewitnesses I spoke to told me that people had fainted and that caused the panic, but if you were electrocuted, then you would drop to the ground and there could be some overlap," he said. He said another eyewitness told him crash barriers also contributed to the stampede. "Another vendor on the other side, on the mainland side, told me that the crash barriers set up were in place and that prevented people from spilling onto the road," he said. "But there were so many people coming over the bridge and that meant there was a jam and people couldn't move forward or backward - and that was when the stampede happened."

Phnom Penh resident Sean Ngu could hear the festivities on the river front and heard the tone of the crowd suddenly change just before midnight. "At about 11pm we heard celebrations, people were cheering and it went from that to screaming and panicking," he said. "Screams, the funny screams. it brings goose bumps onto the back of your neck basically. "So we rushed there. We see people just pushing one end, the other end pushing and then people in the middle started collapsing." Doctors at city hospitals in Phnom Penh were up all night treating the injured and trying to identify the dead.

The prime minister said at least 339 people had died and more than 300 were injured. Mr Hun said it was not immediately clear what triggered the stampede, but a committee would be set up to examine the incident. The water festival attracts millions of Cambodians from the city and the countryside and can be a magnet for curious tourists. The Australian embassy in Phnom Penh says Cambodian authorities have confirmed no Australians were involved in the stampede.

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