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More victims recovered from Cambodia casino hotel fire



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POIPET, Cambodia — The confirmed death toll from a massive fire at a casino hotel complex in western Cambodia rose to 25 on Friday as the search for victims resumed, officials said.

The blaze at the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in Poipet town, on the border with Thailand, began around midnight on Wednesday and was extinguished more than 12 hours later on Thursday afternoon.

According to Sek Sokhom, head of the information department of Banteay Meanchey province, by Friday morning, 25 bodies had been found at the scene. He said six bodies were found Friday morning, some in their rooms and others on the stairs.

He said more than 60 people were injured and the death toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach victims believed to be lying under rubble or in locked rooms.

According to a report from Soth Kimkolmony, spokesman for Cambodia’s National Commission for Disaster Management, the Grand Diamond City casino complex had 500 employees and 1,000 customers as of Wednesday. It is unclear how many people were present when the fire broke out and how many escaped to safety.

The exact number of casualties is difficult to calculate due to the chaotic rescue efforts and because many of those rescued were taken across the border for treatment in neighboring Thailand, where facilities are located. better health.

Thai and Cambodian rescue teams worked together in the search for the 17-story complex, but their efforts were halted overnight at the dangerously damaged site.

Many people inside, both customers and employees, were from neighboring Thailand, which sent fire trucks and emergency personnel to help.

The Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo Province has counted 11 deaths — all Thais — and 109 injured, 57 of whom are hospitalized.

An initial investigation suggested the fire may have been caused by New Year’s holiday decorations that consumed too much electricity, causing electrical wires to overheat and catch fire, local authorities said.

Khmer Times, a Cambodian English-language news website, quoted City Governor Poipet Keat Hul as describing the chaos as the fire broke out.

“Hotel and casino staff used fire extinguishers to put out the fire, but to no avail. People panicked and rushed everywhere, but mostly looking for the nearest exit,” he said. “I was informed that there was a stampede at the main entrance as black smoke billowed across the building.”

He was quoted as saying that he believed many of the deaths were due to smoke inhalation and that some people died jumping from high floors to escape the flames.

Poipet in western Cambodia is a busy cross-border trade and tourism site opposite the more affluent Thai city of Aranyaprathet.

Casinos are illegal in Thailand. Many Thais go to neighboring countries like Cambodia – a popular tourist destination with convenient international connections – to gamble. Poipet has more than a dozen casinos.

Grand Diamond City Casino is just a short walk from the border checkpoint with Thailand and is very popular with customers who are a four-hour drive from the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen made his first public comments on the tragedy while addressing villagers on Friday morning at a road repair ceremony in the southern province of Kampot.

He expressed condolences and said the incident showed that all high-rise buildings across the country must be fully equipped with fire fighting equipment. He also thanked everyone who worked in the rescue effort, including those from Thailand.

Writer Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul of the Associated Press in Bangkok contributed to this report. Sopheng Cheang reports from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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