PHNOM PENH: Seven people including five children - three from the same impoverished family - have died in a tragic accident in rural Cambodia after climbing into a well to retrieve 3,000 Riel (US$0.75), highlighting the desperation faced by the Southeast Asian nation’s many poor.
A local man, Tuy Chen, had accidentally dropped the 75 cents down the well-many rural Cambodians still do not have access to running water- while collecting a bucket of water over the weekend, The Cambodia Daily reported Monday.
He climbed down the 5-meter well to search for the money but returned home empty-handed where he recounted the unfortunate tale to his children-of whom he had 11.
"The family is poor, so poor that they don’t have enough rice to eat," the daily reported the local village chief as saying.
But later that evening, Chen’s 11-year-old son Che Aun and his daughters - aged 13 and 15 - secretly snuck back to the well, only to quickly die of asphyxiation due to lack of oxygen in the pit.
Discovering the children had climbed down the well, neighbors tried to rescue them, four descending into the well one by one to try and help the others. All died due to lack of oxygen, according to the newspaper.
According to a February report by the World Bank, almost a quarter of Cambodia’s population of almost 15 million lives below the poverty line - however, that figure is deceptive. If the near-poor, those who live on US$2.30 a day, were to lose just 30 cents of their income they would be thrown back into poverty and the rate would double.