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12:49pm 29/12/2022
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Ten killed, 30 injured in huge hotel-casino fire on Cambodian border
By:AFP

POIPET, Cambodia: As many as 10 people have died in a fire at a Cambodian hotel-casino on the border of Thailand, with photos showing groups desperately huddled on ledges as fierce flames surround them.

The blaze at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet broke out late Wednesday night at around 11:30 pm local (1630 GMT), Cambodian police said.

A provisional police report seen by AFP said “about 10 people died and 30 people injured”, adding that around 400 individuals were believed to be working at the venue.

Images obtained by AFP showed the building consumed by flames, with firefighters struggling to contain the intense blaze and rescuers attempting to pluck people from a burning ledge.

In one clip, an unidentified man is seen sitting on a window ledge as smoke billows from the window behind him. In another, a group of people huddles on a ledge as flames near them.

Local media reported that foreign nationals were inside the casino at the time of the fire.

A Thai foreign ministry source said they were coordinating closely with local authorities, with the injured transferred to hospitals in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province.

“The authorities have been trying to control the fire including by sending in firetrucks from the Thai side,” they said.

A volunteer with Thai rescue group the Ruamkatanyu Foundation said the blaze started on the first floor but spread quickly along the carpets, leaping up through the multi-story building.

Firefighters and rescue workers gather at the site of a fire at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet. AFP

Hotel-casino hotspots

Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries and its citizens are officially barred from playing in the casinos.

There are numerous hotel-casinos clustered along the Thai-Cambodian border, with Poipet a popular holiday destination for visitors from Thailand, where most forms of gambling are illegal.

The blaze follows two other fatal incidents in entertainment venues in neighboring Thailand and Vietnam in 2022.

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

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

Concerns have long been raised over the region’s lax attitude to health and safety regulations, particularly in its countless bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues.

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

The owner of Santika was jailed for three years over the blaze, which began when fireworks were set off as a rock band played on stage.

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