Cambodia: At least 19 people killed in casino fire, more than 30 missing

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In a tragic news from Cambodia, a casino-hotel complex in a Cambodian town on the Thai border went up in flames on Thursday. The fire tore through the casino, resulting in a loss of 19 lives, many of them Thai, and leaving up to 30 people missing according to officials.

The fire started around midnight in the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in the town of Poipet. There were around 400 personnel and guests inside when the incident occurred and by Thursday afternoon, the whole casino was destroyed as per reports from Reuters.

The rescue operation was paused around dusk due to the possibility that the building would collapse, according to Cambodian police, who said that hundreds of military, police, and volunteer rescue teams had joined the rescue effort.

The head of the Banteay Meanchey provincial information department, Sek Sokhom believes that the number of people who lost their lives could exceed 20 with many more injured. A committee has been established by the Cambodian government to look into the fire’s cause.

The casinos serve as a key part of Cambodia’s tourism industry. Visitors from Asian countries that forbid gambling are attracted to the casinos in the city of Phnom Penh as well as to those near the borders with Vietnam and Thailand.

Since gambling is prohibited over the border and unlicensed casinos run clandestinely there, casinos in Poipet are extremely popular with short-term Thai visitors. Rescuers reported that several of the victims were Thai nationals.

Somboon Kwanoum, a 53-year-old rescue worker said, “The deceased that we found are Thais, as their IDs show. The bodies now have to be identified.”

According to Punnawat Promsri, her Thai relative perished while assisting two women in escaping a fire. “Max stayed behind to help one woman and a pregnant woman escape, I saw from a video clip, I think it was him. He hung on to a rope attached to a fire basket and it broke. He didn’t die from fire or smoke.”

Several people were being treated in hospitals in the province of Sa Kaeo, which is across the border in Thailand. According to Thai provincial authorities, one Thai person passed away in the hospital, and 70% of those afflicted showed symptoms of smoke inhalation.