Cambodia casino fire survivors recount chaotic scenes


© Reuters. Nunthida Kongreung, daughter of the Grand Diamond hotel-casino fire victim, prays with other family members, in Aranyaprathet district, Sa Kaeo province near the Thailand-Cambodia border, December 30, 2022. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha


By Jiraporn Kuhakan

ARANYAPRATHET, Thailand (Reuters) – When Nunthida Kongreung heard that a huge fire broke out at a hotel-casino in the Cambodian border town, she started calling her parents on vacation there, but no one came. answer.

When someone finally called back, it was a lifeguard who found their bodies, collapsed together in a hotel room on the 17th floor, where they died of smoke inhalation.

Her parents were among at least 27 people killed in the Grand Diamond City hotel and casino fire, which injured more than 100 people. At least 20 are still missing.

The cause of the fire that broke out around midnight on Wednesday is unknown but officials suspect it may have been an electrical short.

“The rescue team said my parents weren’t burned, but they were suffocated from smoke inhalation. So if help had come sooner they might have survived,” Nunthida, 36, said at the hospital. a hospital on the Thai side of the border, where many people died. and injuries were done.

According to Thailand’s Channel 7 television, one survivor said they saw a light fixture sparking, which then caused the flames to reach the ceiling.

“Then everything started to get chaotic. After the fire reached the ceiling, I don’t think everything was okay. It’s been going on for half an hour and the fire truck hasn’t arrived yet.

Piyapol Sukkaew, a regular customer at the casino at the time, said: ‘After just five minutes, smoke covered the whole place.

Like most of the victims, Nunthida’s parents, Puttika and Udon, were Thai citizens. She said both are retired and like to travel to nearby places for vacation.

Casinos in Poipet and other Cambodian towns are popular among short-term visitors from Asian countries where gambling is prohibited, like Thailand.

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