Cambodia hotel casino fire kills at least 19

Inferno injures 50 as video footage shows people jumping from burning building to escape the flames

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At least 19 people have been killed and 50 others injured in a huge fire raging for more than 12 hours at a Cambodian hotel casino.

"There are 19 dead so far as we see bodies and bones," said Sek Sokhom, director of Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey provincial information department. He said the "figure could be higher" because rescuers have not yet reached parts of the complex.

Banteay Meanchey province’s deputy governor, Ngor Meng Chroun, told Cambodia’s Bayon Radio that 50 other people were injured.

Videos posted on social media showed people jumping from windows after they were trapped by the fire at the Grand Diamond City Casino and Hotel in the border town of Poipet, AP reported.

Neighbouring Thailand sent fire engines to help fight the blaze that occurred in a bustling border region.

Thailand’s public broadcaster reported that dozens of Thai citizens were trapped inside.

In a video posted by Cambodia’s firefighting agency, witnesses could be heard shouting for rescuers to help people trapped on the roof of the hotel complex, which is more than 12 storeys tall at its highest point.

The video showed at least one man falling as the flames reached the roof.

The fire department said calls from help were heard from the 13th, 14th and 15th floors at 4am. Hands were seen waving from windows, while a mobile phone’s torch could be seen signalling from inside the complex.

Part of the Grand Diamond City Casino and Hotel destroyed by fire in Poipet on Thursday. AFP

The fire, which started around midnight on Wednesday, was still burning on Thursday morning.

Um Reatry, Governor of Banteay Meanchey province, told Cambodia’s Fresh News website that 11 people had died.

Provincial police chief Maj Gen Sithi Loh said earlier in the morning that 10 had dead while were 30 injured, some critically.

The numbers were expected to rise as authorities searched for victims, while some critically hurt people were expected to succumb to their injuries.

Mr Sithi Loh said 360 emergency personnel and 11 fire engines were sent to the scene. He said the cause of the blaze was not yet known. The casino employed about 400 workers.

“Right now, we are trying to bring the dead bodies from the building down. I don’t think there will be any survivors because of very thick smoke,” said Montri Khaosa-ard, a staff member at the Thailand Ruamkatanyu Foundation, a social welfare organisation that sends volunteers to emergency scenes.

“Even we all [the rescue staff] have to wear proper gear when we go inside the building, otherwise we cannot breathe at all.”

50 people trapped inside

Thai PBS reported that 50 Thais, staff and customers, were trapped inside the casino complex.

It said Cambodian authorities requested help to deal with the fire from Thailand, which sent five fire engines and 10 other rescue vehicles.

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

Thai PBS cited reports that the Aranyaprathet Hospital’s emergency ward was full and other victims had to be sent to other hospitals.

Casinos are illegal in Thailand but neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos host the lucrative industry.

Cambodia has an especially active casino industry because the South-East Asian country is also a popular tourist destination with convenient international connections.

The Grand Diamond City Casino and Hotel is a few metres from the border with Thailand and popular with customers who make the four-hour drive from the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Updated: December 29, 2022, 11:35 AM