At least 19 people were killed in the blaze at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino, with Malaysians reportedly counted among the victims.
Victims jumped to their deaths from burning buildings in a frantic attempt to escape a deadly fire that engulfed a casino in Cambodia on Wednesday, Thai rescue workers said.
The rescuers and other officials have said that at least 19 people were killed but the death toll was expected to rise from the blaze at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino in Poipet, a city that borders Thailand. At least 70 people were injured, and dozens still remain unaccounted for.
Patcharin Thaenthong, leader of a Thai rescue team who responded to emergency calls from Cambodian authorities, said some of the victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation. “When we arrived, we could not get in because the fire had already taken over (most of) the buildings,” he said.
The victims were from several countries, including Thailand, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The death toll could still rise as rescuers now sift through the remains from the fire.
Approximately 700 Thai citizens were rescued and sent to hospitals in Thailand, according to authorities.
Images showed much of the building consumed by flames, with firefighters struggling to contain the blaze and rescuers attempting to pluck people from a burning ledge.
Casinos are illegal in Thailand, but neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos host the lucrative industry. Cambodia has an especially active casino industry because the Southeast Asian country is also a popular tourist destination with convenient international connections.
The blaze follows two other fatal incidents in entertainment venues in neighbouring 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 rather 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, resulting in the arrest and three-year imprisonment of the club owner. That fire was started when fireworks were set off as a band played on stage.
The cause of the Grand Diamond City casino fire is still under investigation, but preliminary reports suggest an electrical overload may have started the blaze.
Sources: CNN Asia and South China Morning Post. Additional reporting from the Associated Press.
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