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June 23, 2019

Seven dead in Cambodia building collapse

AFP
June 23, 2019

PHNOM PENH: At least seven people died Saturday when an under-construction building owned by a Chinese company collapsed at a Cambodian beach resort, officials said, as hundreds of rescue workers searched for survivors in the giant rubble heap.

The building went down before sunrise in the casino-resort town Sihanoukville in southwestern Cambodia, a rapidly developing tourist hotspot awash with Chinese investments.

Four people have been detained in connection with the accident, including the Chinese building owner, the head of the construction firm and the contractor. A Cambodian landowner has also been held at provincial headquarters for questioning.

The seven-storey building was nearing completion when it crashed down early Saturday, the deadliest such accident in recent years in Cambodia.

“Now the death toll from the building collapse is seven,” Sihanoukville city police chief Thul Phorsda said, after officials earlier pinned the number of dead at three.

At least 23 people were reported injured — several critically — and at least three of the dead were Cambodian, including two workers and a translator.

“The work to rescue victims... will continue day and night until all victims are removed from the debris,” said a statement from Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities.

Earlier, rescue workers in hard hats pulled people from a mountain of concrete, wood and twisted metal, some in body bags or with dislocated limbs.

More than 1,000 emergency workers, soldiers, police officers and medics gathered at the site to continue looking for survivors as night fell.

An investigation into the cause of the accident has been launched, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said negligence was to blame.

“I am so regretful for the loss of people´s lives that stemmed from the carelessness of the construction company,” he said on his official Facebook page from Bangkok where he was attending a meeting of regional leaders.

There was no confirmation of precisely how many people were at the building at the time of the collapse, though earlier officials said 30 people were feared trapped.

Around 50 workers would normally have been on the site at the time, Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said.

The building belonged to a Chinese national who rented the land from a Cambodian owner. The construction firm and contractor were both Chinese-owned as well.