Disasters & Accidents

Death toll rises as rescuers scour razed Cambodia casino complex

(Update 1: Adds details, new death toll, changes headline and lede)

Bangkok Desk, Dec 30 (EFE).- The death toll from the huge fire that gutted a hotel-casino in the Cambodian border town of Poipet rose Friday as emergency teams scoured the smoldering complex.

Local officials say at least 25 people died in the blaze that started late Wednesday night, although the number of fatalities is expected to rise considerably after a full search of the 18-storey building.

Authorities also report dozens of injured people, many of whom have been transferred to Thailand, which also sent in rescue teams and fire trucks.

The search was temporarily suspended Thursday night due to fears of part of the building collapsing and due to lack of light.

Rescue personnel are searching the interior of the complex room by room, floor by floor, the corridors of which are charred and dark without power, and huge rooms that were gutted by the flames, according to videos posted on social networks by the emergency teams.

Firefighters were lowering by hand, or from heights with the help of ropes and pulleys, bags containing bodies found in the hotel rooms.

At least some of the bodies have been transported to a nearby pagoda.

Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his condolences over the fire on Friday and thanked those involved in the rescue operation.

The fire started on Wednesday around 11.30 pm local time (15:30 GMT) at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino and took more than nine hours to bring the flames under control, according to authorities.

Rescue teams used helicopters to evacuate people who had climbed onto the roof, and some people jumped from the building to avoid flames and smoke.

It is believed casino has around 400 employees and the cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Poipet, a key town on the route that connects the Cambodian tourist city of Siem Reap and the Thai capital, is famous for its casinos on the border with Thailand, where gambling is illegal. Gambling is also illegal in Cambodia for Cambodian citizens. EFE


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