Death toll rising in Cambodia casino fire

BANGKOK, 30 Dec 2022:

At least 19 people have died and dozens more were injured after a fire ripped through a casino hotel in the Cambodian town of Poipet near the Thai border early yesterday morning.

Sek Sokhom, head of the Banteay Meanchey provincial information department, told VOD online newspaper emergency teams recovered 19 bodies from the Grand Diamond City casino.

He added that the toll could rise further as more bodies may be found in the rooms rescue teams have yet to reach.

The casualties are believed to include Cambodians, Malaysians, Vietnamese and Thais.

Authorities have also reported about 100 injured, many of whom have been transferred to hospital in neighbouring Thailand, according to the Thai Enquirer.

The Thai health ministry has urged hospitals in the border province of Sa Kaeo to prepare for the arrival of injured people, in a message posted on social media.

Rescue teams are conducting a search and rescue operation amid the rubble.

According to Cambodian authorities, the blaze, whose causes are still being investigated, started on Wednesday at around 11:30pm local time and was not brought under control until more than nine hours later.

The flames spread rapidly from the casino and reached the hotel wing of the building through a walkway.

The intensity of the fire and its rapid spread hampered the evacuation of residents at the hotel and hindered efforts to extinguish the blaze.

Emergency teams and firefighters from neighbouring Thailand were deployed to the site to assist with the operation.

Many of those affected by the blaze are Thai nationals who worked at the entertainment complex.

Between 300 and 400 people were trapped inside the building when the fire started and many were evacuated, Kun Kim, vice president of Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management, told local media, although he did not specify how many had been saved.

Footage of people trapped on the building’s roof, some of whom can be seen jumping off, was published on social media by witnesses.

Helicopters were deployed to rescue those trapped on the building’s roof.

Footage of people trying to escape by jumping from windows using tied sheets has also been shared online.

Poipet, a key city on the route that connects the Cambodian tourist city of Siem Reap with Bangkok, is well known for the many casinos dotted along the Thai border, where gambling is illegal.