Many killed in fire at Cambodian casino on Thai border

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
2022.12.29
Bangkok
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Fire burns around people on a ledge on the side of the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet, Cambodia, Dec. 29, 2022. [STR/AFP]

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Rescue workers and security forces look up at a fire engulfing the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet, Dec. 29, 2022. [STR/AFP]

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People flash lights from a window in the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino as a fire burns through the building in Poipet, Dec. 29, 2022. [STR/AFP]

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Firefighters spray water onto the site of a fire at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet, Dec. 29, 2022. [STR/AFP]

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Firefighters spray water onto the site of a fire at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet, Dec. 29, 2022. [STR/AFP]

Updated at 1:44 p.m. ET on 2022-12-29

A massive fire in a Cambodia casino complex has killed at least 19 people and injured more than 100, Cambodian and Thai officials said Thursday, adding they feared there would be more casualties.

The blaze at the multi-story Grand Diamond City Casino in Poipet, on the border with Thailand, broke out shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Photographs showed people shining lights from windows and clambering onto ledges to escape the flames as firefighters tried to control the blaze.

Thailand’s police spokesman said that many of the injured were Thai staff and customers of the casino. There were about 400 people inside the casino complex when the fire broke out, he said.

Thai authorities said one Thai national was confirmed dead but did not disclose the name ahead of an autopsy.

Thailand sent fire crews and helicopters to fight the blaze and evacuate the injured to hospitals across the border.

Thailand’s Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul said Thursday 108 of the injured were transferred to Sa Kaeo province but only 34 were admitted to hospitals there.

“The conditions ranged from slight to severe. Mostly, they suffered burns, smoke inhalation and breathing difficulties. Some were on ventilators. Some fractured bones by jumping,” Anutin said.

“We give treatment to all injured regardless of nationality on a humanitarian basis,” he said, adding that he had asked the regional health department to send a forensic team and autopsy equipment to identify the dead.

The fire was finally put out at 2 p.m. Thursday, the AP news agency reported, citing a spokesman for Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey province.

The search and rescue operation was called off at dusk for safety reasons, because the building remained hot from the fire, the spokesman said.

The Cambodian government has set up a committee to look into the cause of the fire, although Sek Sokhom, director of the Banteay Meanchey provincial information department, told the Bangkok Post that an electrical short caused the blaze.

“The casinos consumed a lot of electricity for New Year’s preparation,” he told the Thai newspaper. “We have a photo showing a wire burning in a gambling room.”

The Bangkok Post also said the Grand Diamond City Casino is owned by a fugitive Thai politician, Vatana Asavahame, who is wanted for alleged corruption in a case linked to a wastewater treatment project.

Thai media said Vatana had fled for Cambodia in 2008.

This story has been updated to include possible cause of fire.

Reuters, AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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