Cambodians Turn Out To Honor The Dead

Hundreds of somber-faced Cambodians assembled Thursday morning in front of the suspension bridge in the capital where hundreds of people died Monday in a stampede during a festival.

(CNN)

A Cambodian police officer stand near the bodies of stampede victims as relatives watch at Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh November 23 , 2010.

Hundreds of somber-faced Cambodians assembled Thursday morning in front of the suspension bridge in the capital where hundreds of people died Monday in a stampede during a festival.

Some carried flowers, others lit candles and incense in honor of the dead in the ceremony early Thursday, which the government has declared a day of mourning.

Government investigators said Wednesday that the bridge swayed as thousands of people attempted to cross it Monday night. That apparently led to fears it would collapse, resulting in the stampede, which killed 456 people at the Water Festival, the investigators said. Another 800 people were injured.

The investigators' initial findings were aired on state-run Bayon television.

Police fired water cannons to get people to continue moving across the footbridge, which leads to an island in the center of a river.

"That just caused complete and utter panic," Steve Finch of the Phnom Penh Post newspaper told CNN.

The government said it would help to transport the bodies of the dead and pay 5 million riel ($1,230) to the family of each of the deceased.

Most of the bodies have been taken to their home provinces.

Funerals and memorial services were held Wednesday throughout the country, though some families said they still had not learned the fate of their loved ones.

The three-day festival, which began Saturday, is held each November to honor a victory by Cambodian naval forces during the 12th century reign of King Jayavarman VII, according to the country's tourism website.

During the festival, which includes boat races, participants pray for a good rice harvest and enough rain, and celebrate the full moon, the site says.

Visalsok Nou, a Cambodian Embassy official in Washington, said more than 4 million people were attending the Water Festival when the stampede occurred. The country has set up a commission to look into the incident.