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First Water Festival To Be Held Since 2010 Bridge Stampede

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Jose Marti monument in the Revolution Plaza in Havana next to the Vice-President of the Cuban Council Salvador Valdes Mesa (C-R).

Every week on the Buddhist Sabbath, Chan Sery burns incense before the photographs of his three daughters and wife that he keeps in his small home in Kampong Chhnang province.

He lost all four of his family members to the bridge stampede in Phnom Penh four years ago, when Water Festival crowds panicked on the span between the city and Diamond Island.

Chan Sery says it feels to him as though the tragedy—which killed 353 people and injured hundreds others—happened only yesterday. “I feel much sorrow for having lost them, but I don’t know what to do,” he said in a recent interview.

Cambodian authorities are now preparing to hold the first Water Festival since the disaster. Festivals since the stampede have been canceled, after authorities and police were accused of negligence.

The stampede occurred after huge crowds became packed onto the bridge leading to Koh Pich, due to poor crowd control. The situation became dire as those stuck on the bridge became overheated and suffocated, leading to a panic.

Survivors too say they cannot forget the Nov. 22, 2010, tragedy. Sok Saoly, 23, was trapped on the bridge with other festival-goers as they panicked. “When I visit Phnom Penh and drive near that bridge,” she said, “I feel horror.”