10 dead, 30 injured in huge hotel-casino fire on Cambodia-Thailand border

Up to 10 people have died in a fire at a Cambodian hotel-casino on the border with Thailand. Photos show groups huddled desperately on ledges as fierce flames surround them.

The fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel-Casino in Poipet broke out around 11:30 p.m. late Wednesday night, Cambodian police said.

A preliminary police report provided to AFP said “about 10 people died and 30 people were injured,” adding that about 400 people are believed to be working at the venue.

Images obtained by AFP showed the building engulfed in flames, with firefighters struggling to contain the intense blaze and rescuers trying to pluck people from a flaming ledge.

In one clip, an unidentified man sits on a windowsill as smoke billows from the window behind him. In another, a group of people crouch on a ledge with flames near them.

Local media reported that foreigners were staying at the casino at the time of the fire.

A Thai Foreign Ministry source said they were coordinating closely with local authorities, with the injured being taken to hospitals in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province.

“The authorities have tried to bring the fire under control, including by dispatching fire engines from the Thai side,” they said.

A volunteer with Thai rescue group Ruamkatanyu Foundation said the fire started on the first floor but quickly spread through the carpets and cracked through the multi-story building.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and its citizens are officially forbidden from gambling in the casinos.

Hotel casinos are plentiful along the Thai-Cambodian border, with Poipet being a popular holiday destination for visitors from Thailand, where most forms of gambling are illegal.

The fire follows two more deadly incidents at entertainment venues in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam in 2022.

In August, a fire broke out at a Thai nightclub, killing 26 and injuring scores more.

And in September, a fire broke out in southern Vietnam, killing 32 people at a karaoke bar.

Concerns have long been raised about the region’s lax approach to health and safety regulations, particularly in its myriad of bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues.

In 2009, a massive inferno erupted at a New Year’s Eve party at Bangkok’s chic Santika club, killing 67 and injuring more than 200.

The owner of Santika was sentenced to three years in prison for the fire, which started when fireworks were set off when a rock band was playing on stage.

© 2022 AFP

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