A day of mourning after a Cambodia festival turns from joy to sorrow


POSTED: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 3:16am

UPDATED: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 3:20am

a stampede that killed hundreds and rescuers still comb the muddy river of bodies.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Rescuers on Tuesday trawled a muddy river for more bodies and Cambodia prepared for a day of mourning in wake of a stampede by thousands of festival goers which left at least 378 dead and hundreds of injured.  The prime minister called it the country's biggest tragedy since the murderous 1970s reign of the Khmer Rouge.

A panic-stricken crowd - celebrating the end of the rainy season on an island in a river - tried to flee over a narrow bridge in the capital Phnom Penh late Monday and many people were crushed underfoot or fell over its sides into the water.  Disoriented victims struggled to find an escape hatch through the human mass, pushing their way in every direction.  After the stampede, bodies were stacked upon bodies on the bridge as rescuers swarmed the area.

The search for bodies in and along the Bassac River continued Tuesday as state television showed horrific footage of twisted and writhing bodies -- both alive and dead -- piled on each other.  Some desperately reached out with their hands, screaming for help and grasping for hands of rescuers who struggled to pull limp bodies from the pile as if they were trapped in sand or snow.

It remained unclear what sparked the stampede.

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