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Cambodia explosion: British teacher among several injured as illegal petrol station bursts into flames

Chiara Giordano

A British teacher and her American friend were seriously injured after an illegal petrol station exploded in Cambodia as they rode past on a motorcycle.

Zoe Eleftheriou, 22, from Medway, Kent, and Abigail Alexander, 18, from Miamisburg, Ohio, are being treated in hospital after they were badly burned in the blast in Siem Reap.

Dash cam footage from a car captured the moment the LPG station burst into flames on Wednesday, injuring 13 people.

Cambodia Police said it is believed a tanker truck carrying 2,000 litres of petrol ignited while transferring gas to a storage tank.

Ms Alexander, who was riding on the back of the motorbike, which shielded Ms Eleftheriou from more serious injuries, suffered burns to more than 35 per cent of her body.

Ms Eleftheriou has been transferred to a specialist burns unit at a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, while Ms Alexander, who did not have travel insurance, is being treated at the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital, in Cambodia.

Ms Eleftheriou’s mother, Mary, said in a Facebook update: “I arrived beside Zoe to find her bandaged back up and still with tubes down her throat.

“It was explained they were still there because of the swelling on her neck and the rest of her body.

British teacher Zoe Eleftheriou and American Abigail Alexander were seriously injured in an explosion at a petrol station in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on 14 August 2019. (Cambodia Police)

“The second doctor that spoke to me said her swelling was more than they would have expected so they are monitoring her for infection.

“Yesterday she started the first of many surgical operations to remove dead skin which could come infected if left.

“She is able to nod and shake her head to questions or write letters in the air with her bandaged hands but trying to guess what she is saying is pretty hard.”

Ms Alexander’s mother, Erin, launched an online fundraiser to help pay for her hospital bills and travel costs to the US, which she estimated amounted to about $200,000 (£165,000).

She described her daughter as in a “critical condition” the day after the blast, but it is hoped she will soon be able to fly home.

Nop Sarak, of Siem Reap district police, told the Phnom Penh Post that witnesses described how “gas started leaking out of the tank, and shortly afterwards there was an explosion”.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy released a statement after the explosion claiming the petrol station was not authorised to operate, the newspaper reported.