Fire at Cambodian Casino Near Thai Border Kills at Least 10
A fire engulfed a casino hotel in a Cambodian gambling town along the Thai border on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and injuring at least 30, a Cambodian provincial official said.
The blaze at Grand Diamond City started overnight and continued raging Thursday afternoon, leaving the 17-story building on the verge of collapse, said Sek Sokhom, a spokesman for Banteay Meanchey Province.
Mr. Sek said he expected the casualties to grow as “dozens” of people were still trapped, including hotel guests who were unable to escape rooms with electronic door locks that no longer worked.
The fire was caused by an electrical short, Mr. Sek said. “The casinos consumed a lot of electricity for New Year’s preparation. We have a photo showing a wire burning in a gambling room.”
Grand Diamond City is in Poipet, a rapidly growing town of 100,000 people that is home to about 20 casinos. The town, about 220 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, attracts thousands of tourists daily from nearby Thailand. Many arrive to gamble, which is illegal in both Cambodia and Thailand, but allowed for foreign passport holders in Cambodia.
The fire started at Grand Diamond City around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to witnesses. About 400 people were in the casino hotel when the fire broke out, Mr. Sek said. Cambodian firefighters were assisted by Thai emergency responders in battling the blaze.
The fire spread to an adjacent resort, Poipet Resort Casino, according to witnesses. “The buildings were completely destroyed by fires,” said Sin Sambath, 42, a Cambodian who was at the scene.
Some hotel guests jumped from windows to escape the flames, videos posted on social media showed. “They broke their legs and arms,” Mr. Sin said. Nearby hospitals filled up with patients injured in the fire. At least 100 people were rescued by noon on Thursday.
Families of those who were inside the Grand Diamond City waited anxiously outside for news. “I am not allowed to get into the building, so I can’t do anything,” said Khieu Naron, 63, as she waited for information about her 22-year-old daughter-in-law, Chana, an employee at Grand Diamond City who she said worked up to 20 hours a day.
“I only have 50 percent hope that she has survived,” she said.
Most of the dead and injured were Thai, and some were Indonesian and Filipino, the authorities said. Many of the injured were taken to hospitals in Thailand for treatment, they added.
The Cambodian casino blaze follows two other deadly fires in entertainment venues in Southeast Asia this year. In August, a fire at a Thai nightclub killed 26 people. In September, a fire at a Vietnamese karaoke bar killed 32.
The Cambodian government had recently warned of an increased risk of fires during the dry season, from November to April.