|Collapsed sign lays across road. Note the car underneath.|
Over the last couple of years giant advertising signboards have been erected along the Phnom Penh riverfront on the Chrouy Changvar peninsula on the far side of the river, facing across to the popular riverfront tourist area opposite. A few weeks back one of the signboards collapsed, reportedly due to force of the winds that regularly blow along the river. There were no injuries at the time but local residents expressed fears that there easily could have been and might still be as several more signboards were still in place just meters from the riverfront road and residential area.
It seems that those fears may have been realized today.
|Before collapse (about 2 months ago.)|
|After collapse (today)|
The road is completely covered with the metal remnants of the board. Bits of roadside drink carts lay crushed and strewn about. At least one car is visible trapped under the fallen structure. A motodup driver at the scene noted that it was fortunate the incident occurred during the lunch hour when fewer people were on the road than in the morning and late afternoon, though I am not sure those who were eating at the now flattened roadside stand would agree.
|Crushed drink cart at edge of collapse|
|Crowd looks on as crane works to remove collapsed sign|
If people have indeed lost their lives or were seriously injured, I wonder if and how much compensation will be paid to the surviving families. If it is anything similar the usual compensation for a life 'accidentally' taken in Cambodia, one life will likely cost less than the price of one of those fallen signboards.
But perhaps I speak too quickly.
We shall see.
|Father and baby look on at crushed houses|
|Collapsed sign lays across road|
|Drink vendors still working next to collapse area|
|Signboard collapsed in field|
|Two signboards collapsed in field|
|Broken base of signboard collapsed in field|
|Broken structure of sign that fell across road|
|Broken pylons of signboard that fell across road|
|Broken pylon of signboard that fell across road|
|One of the remaining signboards standing ominously close to the road|
UPDATE, May 11, 2011: According to today's Cambodia Daily, there were no fatalities in the signboard collapse and only two injuries - a woman and a child. If that is the extent of the human cost, it is indeed a very lucky turn of events - bordering on the miraculous. According to the CD article, local residents continue to express fear over the presence of the billboards and now angered that the city does not seem to take their safety seriously. The Phnom Penh municipal director of commercial advertising asserted that the responsibility falls to the owner of the boards (Moon Media.) He went on, "We made sure of the safety of how they built the billboards and that they were built expertly...We warned the company to be careful in constructing the billboards because it is the rainy season."
Aside from the continued danger to the residents living near these signboards, what concerns me at this point is the apparent failure of authorities to learn and act effectively on a similar billboard collapse just one month ago. If they had, this second collapse may have been averted. Late last year Phnom Penh suffered the water festival tragedy on Koh Pich Bridge which took hundreds of lives. One would hope and assume that lessons were learned from that tragedy and steps taken to prevent a repeat of such an occurrence. Then again, I would have assumed the same of the first signboard collapse.