Cambodian casino fire kills 19, dozens missing

POIPET: At least 19 people have been killed and up to 30 missing after a huge fire engulfed a hotel-casino complex in a Cambodian town bordering Thailand, officials said Thursday.
About 400 employees and patrons were in the Grand The city of diamonds casino and hotel in the city of Poipet when the fire broke out around midnight, and up to 30 people were still missing.
“The death toll can reach more than 20,” said Sek Sokhomhead of the Banteay Meanchey provincial information directorate.
About 60 people were injured, he said.
Video footage showed the blaze under control on Thursday afternoon and a crew in an emergency stairwell in the building donning breathing masks and fireproof balaclavas before entering a smoky hallway.
Khieu Sopheaka spokesman for the Home Office, had earlier said it was unclear how many people were still inside the charred building.
“We don’t know how many are trapped inside and now we are only trying to save lives,” he said, adding that the cause of the fire was still unclear.
A key part of Cambodia’s tourism industry, important to its economy, casinos in the capital Phnom Penh and on the borders with Vietnam and Thailand attract visitors from Asian countries that ban gambling.
Poipet’s casinos are extremely popular with short-term Thai visitors, especially since gambling is illegal and unlicensed casinos operate underground in the neighboring country.
At least 25 people were being treated in hospitals in His Kaeo province across the border, Thai authorities said.
Provincial authorities said a Thai national died in hospital and 70% of those affected showed symptoms of smoke inhalation.
Cambodian police said hundreds of members of the military, police and rescue teams joined the rescue effort.
Nighttime video footage showed flames engulfing parts of the building amid thick billows of smoke.
It also showed people crammed with firefighters into a rooftop bar in daylight, shielding their mouths from smoke billowing from doors and windows on lower floors.


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