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Cambodia’s death toll from massive fire at casino hotel complex climbs to 25

The death toll from a massive fire that engulfed a casino hotel complex in western Cambodia has risen to 25 after more bodies were recovered in the hunt to find missing victims.

On Wednesday, some 1500 people, including customers and employees, were believed to be inside the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in the town of Poipet on the Thai border when a blaze swept through it just before midnight.

The blaze was extinguished more than 12 hours later on Thursday afternoon and continued search for missing people.

Six more bodies were recovered from the charred rooms and stairway by rescue workers on Friday, taking the death toll to 25, said Sek Sokhom, head of Banteay Meanchey province’s information department.

More than 60 people were injured and the death toll is expected to rise once rescuers will be able to access the victims under debris and locked rooms.

Chilling videos of the incident showed people jumping or falling from upper floors of the casino-hotel to escape the fire.

Another footage shared by Ruamkatanya Foundation, a volunteer Thai rescue team that assisted in the operation with Reuters, showed a crew in the fire escape stairwell of a building putting on respirator masks and fire-resistant hoods before entering a smoke-filled corridor.

A general view of the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino where a fire broke out, in Poipet (REUTERS)
A general view of the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino where a fire broke out, in Poipet (REUTERS)

There were some 500 employees and 1,000 customers inside the Grand Diamond City Casino on Wednesday, said Soth Kimkolmony, a spokesperson for Cambodia‘s National Committee for Disaster Management.

However, the exact number of people who were present when the fire broke out remains unknown.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. The Cambodian government has set up a committee to investigate the reason of the fire, Mr Sokhom said.

According to preliminary investigation, the fire is believed to have been caused by New Year’s holiday decorations that drew too much electricity, causing wires to overheat and burn, local authorities said.

In this image from video provided by Fresh News, fire engulfs part of the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in the town of Poipet (AP)
In this image from video provided by Fresh News, fire engulfs part of the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in the town of Poipet (AP)

The rescue efforts by both Thai and Cambodian emergency crews who have been working side-by-side were paused overnight as the site was dangerously damaged.

Thailand’s Sa Kaeo Provincial Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office has counted 11 dead — all Thai — and 109 injured, including 57 in hospitals.

Making his first public comments on the tragedy, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen said on Friday morning expressed condolences for the victims and their families.

He urged authorities to improve fire safety and response times.

Several Thai nations visit neighbouring countries such as Cambodia — a popular tourist destination with convenient international connections —to gamble as casinos remain banned in Thailand. Poipet has more than a dozen casinos but safety standards are poorly enforced.