Ministry identifies fire-trap buildings

2019-09-06 11:05:26


Firefighters use a water crane to battle a blaze in the capital. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Interior Ministry yesterday said some buildings in the Kingdom lack fire safety standards, including emergency exits, fire extinguishers, sprinklers and alarms, and ordered they be retrofitted.

The ministry noted that a working group was established to conduct checks on building construction in the wake of the June 22 building collapse in Sihanoukville, which killed 28 construction workers and injured 26 others.

Speaking at a national seminar on Fire Safety yesterday, Ouk Kimlek, a ministry secretary of state, said the group found that many tall buildings already in use or being constructed do not have emergency exits or safe passageways, making them potentially risky when a fire breaks out.

“The inspection revealed that some buildings did not have adequate fire protection systems and fire-fighting equipment for emergencies,” he said. “These tall buildings do not have alarms to alert people inside the building. This is certainly risky and we must address it.”

Mr Kimlek noted that the building and construction owners have been instructed to correct their oversights.


Firefighters use a water crane to battle a blaze in the capital. KT/Chor Sokunthea

“All building owners who fail to comply with the standards laid down by the Ministry of Interior as well as the National Police Commissariat will face legal action,” he said.

Mr Kimlek said all architects must ensure that fire protection systems and equipment are included in their building plans, including having sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.

Major General Neth Vantha, the ministry’s Fire Department director, yesterday said six wedding venues, including Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich exhibition centre and Mondial centre, lack emergency exits.

He said the Koh Pich and Mondial centres have been ordered to re-design their fire protection systems while action against the other four is still pending.

“If a fire breaks out during wedding receptions at Koh Pich or Mondial, how many people will be in danger? This is not a small problem,” he said. “The authorities will soon issue orders for the other venues to re-design their fire protection systems.”

Prom Yorn, Phnom Penh fire department director, said firefighters often encounter challenges while putting out fires in the capital.

“Because some houses were not constructed in line with standards, it’s difficult for firefighters to get inside the building to rescue victims or put out the fire,” he said. “Some condos in the capital built small escape doors and tiny shutter windows, which are useless when an incident takes place.”

Mr Yorn said in some circumstances, the owners of burning houses are also troublesome for firefighters.

“Some people just do not understand when firefighters are doing their jobs. They want to put out the fire completely in a short time, and they do not cooperate and scold authorities,” he said.

Last month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered all police chiefs to check buildings for fire protection systems and fire evacuation plans, and stop any construction activity that did not meet adequate fire safety requirements.

Sok Kin, Building and Wood Workers Trade Union of Cambodia president, yesterday said the ministry should also provide proper training to firefighters and raise people’s awareness about the common causes of fire.

“It is important to have well-trained firefighters who are able to put out fires quickly,” he said. “I think the authorities must also disseminate information on how to use fire extinguishers to the public so that people are well-prepared when a fire breaks out.”

The Fire Department recently reported that there were 429 fires in the Kingdom during the first six months of this year, an increase of 78 cases compared to the same period last year. Ten people died, 46 were injured and 418 houses were destroyed across the country.

The report noted that last month there were 41 fires across the country with two deaths, five injuries and 36 houses destroyed.

It said that 40 percent of the fires were caused by electrical faults, 38 percent due to flammable substances and 22 percent thorough negligent acts.