A fire at the Grand Diamond City Casino and Hotel in the town of Poipet, Cambodia, burned for more than 12 hours Thursday. The blaze has killed at least 19 people and injured more than 60, with many still unaccounted for.
The blaze started around midnight on Wednesday and was extinguished by 2:00 p.m. Thursday, but rescue operations continue, according to the head of Banteay Meanchey Province’s information department Sek Sokhom. He also said an initial investigation suggested that an electrical overload due to New Year’s decorations may have caused wires to overheat and start the fire, according to CTV News.
Banteay Meanchey police chief Sithi Loh said 360 emergency personnel and 11 fire trucks were sent to the scene. Neighboring Thailand also sent firetrucks and first responders to assist rescue efforts in the border town.
The Department of Fire Prevention, Extinguishing and Rescue said calls for help were heard from as high as the 15th floor at 4:00 a.m. and hands were seen waving from windows in a desperate attempt to catch the attention of rescuers. A person reportedly used a mobile phone’s flashlight to signal for help, according to CTV News.
Video footage shows desperate people trapped in the blaze jumping off the building.
Massive fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel & Casino in Poipet, Cambodia, with an unclear number of people hurt. #Breaking #BreakingNews #Cambodia #Poipet pic.twitter.com/GsASKnTLFo
— Chaudhary Parvez (@ChaudharyParvez) December 29, 2022
Sokhom said some victims are believed to be trapped under debris or locked in rooms that rescue crews have not yet been able to access, so the death toll is expected to rise, according to CTV News.
#BREAKING: Massive fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel & Casino in Poipet, Cambodia, burns uncontrollably, wounding numerous people. #BreakingNews pic.twitter.com/DTHVEOyPbJ
— Breaking 4 News (@Breaking_4_News) December 29, 2022
Montri Khaosa-ard, a member of social welfare and disaster aid organization Thailand Ruamkatanyu Foundation echoed Sokhom’s concerns. (RELATED: Massive Fire Erupts At Evidence Center For Police Department)
🚨🇰🇭 #Cambodia hotel fire death toll rise to at least 20 with over 50 trapped as people seen jumping from windows. pic.twitter.com/Fh8huRLjw7
— Terror Alarm (@Terror_Alarm) December 29, 2022
“Right now, we are trying to bring the dead bodies from the building down. I don’t think there will be any survivors because of very thick smoke,” Khaosa-ard said, according to CTV News. “Even we all (the rescue staff) have to wear proper gear when we go inside the building, otherwise we cannot breathe at all.”
Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian citizens are among the confirmed dead in this tragedy. A local Buddhist temple is being used to receive and store the bodies of the deceased, according to CTV News.
A spokesperson for Cambodia’s National Committee for Disaster Management, said the Grand Diamond City casino complex had roughly 500 employees, and 1,000 customers on Wednesday. It remains unclear how many people were in the building when the fire started, according to CTV News.