Thousands of Cambodians celebrating the water festival by the river in the Cambodian capital stampeded on Monday night. The panic was exacerbated as the crowd rushed to cross a bridge, and some fell into the water.
Ambulances raced back and forth between the river and the hospital for several hours after the stampede, while onlookers and relatives waited outside. The death toll seemed likely to rise sharply, as many of the injured appeared to be badly hurt, and local medical facilities have limited capacity.
Witnesses said the stampede began after several people were electrocuted on a small bridge connecting Phnom Penh to nearby Diamond Island. Most either drowned in a tributary of the Tonle Sap lake or were trampled to death, authorities said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen apologised for the disaster and ordered an investigation as television footage showed relatives crying over the bodies of the dead piled up on each other.
"This is the biggest tragedy in more than 31 years after the Pol Pot regime," he said, referring to the murderous Khmer Rouge regime whose agrarian revolution in 1975 killed an estimated 1.7 million people in Cambodia under the command of Pol Pot.