27 killed, 8 bodies recovered after huge hotel fire on Cambodian-Thai border

A provisional police report seen by AFP showed that around 400 individuals were believed to be working at the venue

By Agencies

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022, 8:57 AM

Last updated: Fri 30 Dec 2022, 9:45 AM

Cambodian rescue teams recovered eight bodies on Friday from the charred rooms of a casino-hotel where a fire killed at least 27 people a day earlier, with more than 20 people still missing, according to a Reuters report.

The blaze at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet broke out late Wednesday night at around 11.30pm local time (16.30 GMT), the Cambodian police said.

Images obtained by AFP showed the building consumed by flames, with firefighters struggling to contain the intense blaze, and rescuers attempting to pluck people from a burning ledge.

In one clip, an unidentified man is seen sitting on a window ledge as smoke billows from the window behind him. In another, a group of people huddle on a ledge as flames come dangerously close to them.

Local media reported that foreign nationals were inside the casino at the time of the fire.

A Thai foreign ministry source said that they were coordinating closely with local authorities, with the injured transferred to hospitals in Thailand's Sa Kaeo province.

"The authorities have been trying to control the fire by sending in firetrucks from the Thai side," they said.

A volunteer with Thai rescue group the Ruamkatanyu Foundation said the blaze started on the first floor but spread quickly along the carpets, leaping up through the multi-storey building.

Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries and its citizens are officially barred from playing in the casinos.

There are numerous hotel-casinos clustered along the Thai-Cambodian border, with Poipet a popular holiday destination for visitors from Thailand, where most forms of gambling are illegal.

It was unclear what started the blaze but Sek Sokhom — head of the Banteay Meanchey provincial information department — said it may have been due to an electrical short circuit. A government committee has been set up to investigate the cause.

On Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed condolences for the victims and their families, and urged authorities to improve fire safety and response times.

Safety standards in Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia can be well below international standards and poorly enforced.

The blaze follows two other fatal incidents in entertainment venues in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam in 2022.

In August, a fire broke out at a Thai nightclub killing 26 people and injuring scores more, and in September, a blaze broke out in southern Vietnam, killing 32 people in a karaoke bar.

Concerns have long been raised over the region's lax attitude to health and safety regulations, particularly in its countless bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues.

A massive inferno erupted at a New Year's Eve party at Bangkok's swanky Santika club in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.

The owner of Santika was jailed for three years over the blaze, which began when fireworks were set off as a rock band played on stage.


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