7 dead in Cambodia building collapse

Agence France-Presse
7 dead in Cambodia building collapse
(UPDATED) Four people are detained in connection with the accident, including the Chinese building owner, the head of the construction firm, and the contractor

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (UPDATED) – At least 7 people died Saturday, June 22, 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 7-story 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 7,” Sihanoukville city police chief Thul Phorsda said, after officials earlier pinned the number of dead at 3.

At least 23 people were reported injured – several critically – and at least 3 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.

Sihanoukville was once a sleepy fishing community before being claimed first by Western backpackers, and then wealthy Russians.

It has been flooded by Chinese investment in recent years, spurring a construction boom in a resort town known for its casinos which pull in mainland tourists.

There are around 50 Chinese-owned casinos and dozens of hotel complexes under construction.

Between 2016 and 2018, $1 billion was invested by Chinese government and private businesses in the Preah Sihanouk province, according to official statistics.

Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, has notoriously lax safety laws and labor protections. Accidents are common at its building sites. – Rappler.com

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