Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Riverfront billboards collapse again

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)
This afternoon around 12:30PM, three more of the enormous Chrouy Changvar signboards collapsed, presumably due to the moderate winds that were blowing in Phnom Penh today. Two fell harmlessly into the grassy field behind the boards, but one fell across the road, its heavy iron superstructure crushing roadside drink stands, cars and the fronts of houses on the other side of the road. Though as yet unconfirmed, locals at the scene report that there were several injuries and even fatalities. Again, this has not been confirmed, but given the size and weight of the metal support structure and its current position laying across 50 meters of road,  it is a distinct possibility.

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
When I visited the area a few hours after the event, crowds were still present and cranes were working to lift the broken pylons and twisted beams off the road and damaged houses.

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.


  1. Wow, I hear the wind out there howling right now as I read this. Might be a matter of minutes before that last one comes down.

  2. We all know who rents out that land to the billboard company and I doubt whether the health and well-being of the little people living underneath would interest him one jot.

  3. Amazing that the thousands of other billboards around the globe don't collapse with some slight wind...disgraceful.

  4. Very good report, LTO-C,

    I went on to read your earlier posts and will make your blog a regular stop. I will also put your blog in my blog roll.

    BTW, got the link from kh440.


  5. I'm surprised no one else has mentioned who Moon Media's major shareholder is. 2 years ago Moon Media was a very small billboard company, not even in the top 5. Since then, a major share was acquired, (most likely given free, like in the case of Kampuchea Thmei newspaper), by one of the Iron Man kids.
    Since then Moon Media has gone from strength to strength. Despite announcements a year ago about cutting back on the amount of billboards allowed in Phnom Penh, Moon has been given a free range to pick any prime location they want that no one else could get permission for.Check out the crossroads on Monivong and Sihanouk. They have 6 just at that one spot.
    In fact other billboard owners have been told by city hall that they have to remove their signage from certain spots due to road widening etc, only for Moon Media to erect their signs there 2 weeks later.
    Many within the industry believe Moon will soon have a complete monopoly. Due to the major shareholder, cityhall dare not ask for any "commission" for giving the licenses and no one will ask them for tax (normally $45 per square meter) They able to undercut any competitor, and added to that many major companies feel compelled to use there signage.

  6. Yes but if you look at the quality of their newspaper you will see it is a noticeable failure.

    It is possible to copy or takeover a business but you still need to run it in the right way.

    They might be able to generate some revenues but most companies will not want to rely on them for their advertising requirements.

    They will already know what will happen if there is a problem with the poor service or something is not done right, that they will still have to pay them.

    So many people will stand back and keep their distance from these types of business.

  7. That's why you have to follow the rules regulations with billboards. It will benefit you in the long run.