A senior Ministry of Interior official announced that 2023 saw an almost 20 per cent increase in the number of serious fires across Cambodia.

Neth Vantha, director of the ministry’s Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue, said 761 fires were reported last year, and increase of 143 when compared to 2022.

He added that last year’s fires killed 54 people and injured 97 others, as well as destroying or damaging 579 homes and numerous other buildings.

Vantha shared the figures during the departmental annual meeting, held to review its work in 2023 and plan a working direction for this year.

The highest number of incidents took place in Phnom Penh, with 136 cases. Seventy-one cases were recorded in Kandal, the second-highest provincial total, with Kampot and Siem Reap provinces suffering the next highest incidences. Just two fires were recorded in Kep province.

“The fires not only caused 54 deaths and 97 injuries, but damaged 579 homes. Five factories, four nightclubs and 69 market stalls were also burned, along with a mechanical plant and vehicles with a value of several million dollars,” he said.

Vantha called on the public to remain vigilant, especially during the current dry season.

“The rainy season is not without risk of course, but most fires take place in the dry season. I urge all citizens as well as all state institutions to be wary, especially when it comes to electrical devices or flammable substances. They should employ the most stringent safety measures,” he urged.

Deputy National Police chief Chev Hak commended the commitment of the fire and rescue forces, as well as their strong will to work together to help people and reduce the number of fires.

“It is crucial that we divide our responsibilities and manage our resources across the country. We need to ensure that all of our equipment is perfectly maintained, and must continue to train our personnel to the highest standards,” he said.

He said it is imperative that officials in the capital and provinces have an advanced knowledge of local geography and communicate closely with the adjacent provinces, in order to guarantee that interventions are timely and well coordinated.

“We are also conducting outreach educational programmes to teach the public how they can prevent fires, and even fight them, should it be necessary.