Bridge Tragedy Revealed Roles of Modern Media in Disaster

Posted December 14th, 2010 at 7:52 am (UTC+7)
1 comment

Bun Tharum, Phnom Penh

When the Diamond Bridge tragedy began, most Cambodians turned on their televisions, while some others went online for news and information about the stampede victims and the cause of the disaster.

The stampede on the bridge, which connects Diamond Island to mainland Phnom Penh, took place at the end of the annual Water Festival, late in the evening of Nov. 22. It eventually left 353 people dead and nearly 400 injured. It was a major news story for the year, and it revealed the different roles that information media are playing in modern Cambodia.

Koh Pich

Photo: AP Monks prayed for happiness and safety Wednesday at a ceremony to reopen the bridge in the Cambodian capital where at least 353 revelers were trampled to death in the riverside tragedy.


Local media and wire services broke the news, and it became one of the top news stories for a global audience. TV stations had an advantage, and they broadcast live breaking news and continued live coverage as the event unfolded. Online news came second, counting a death toll that began at 17 and spread to several hundred as events unfolded. Then major local newspapers struggled to run the story for the following morning, as Cambodians woke with shock and sadness.

Even with the timing issue for newspapers, a local newsstand vendor in Phnom Penh said her business was good and that her sales were double the normal rate, as readers tried to learn what caused the disaster.

News reports said 8,000 people had tried to cross the bridge in opposite directions, creating a mass of people who couldn’t move and then panicked, causing the incident. The disaster became a topic of concern for those who had family members living and working in Phnom Penh. Cell phone providers nationwide struggled to handle communications from their customers, as they tired to reached loved ones, friends and family.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, online news sites have become new and vital sources for the growing number of Cambodians online, who sit comfortably in their offices or homes reading news stories in the age of fast-moving information.

It’s also worth mentioning that two TV stations played a role in charity following the stampede, calling for financial support from the audience and raising nearly $1.5 million to help families of victims and survivors.

Bun Tharum is a freelance journalist, blogger, and digital media specialist. Blogging since 2004, he’s been a contributing-writer for Global Voices Online, Asian Correspondent, and several other print publications. His main interests are information and communication technologies for development and online media. Tharum’s base is Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s largest capital city.

One Response to “Bridge Tragedy Revealed Roles of Modern Media in Disaster”

  1. [...] site to spread messages among her supporters more quickly than word of mouth. Four days after the bridge tragedy at Diamond Island in November, 2010, she used Facebook to promote her own blog post “A Nation in Grief – A Nation [...]

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Bun Tharum is a freelance journalist, blogger, and digital media specialist. Blogging since 2005, he’s been a contributing-writer for Global Voices Online, Asian Correspondent, and several other print publications. His main interests are information and communication technologies for development and online media. Tharum’s base is Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s largest capital city.

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