Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Search and rescue operations resumed in Cambodia on Friday morning after a deadly fire engulfed a casino complex in the border city, killing at least 19 people and leaving dozens missing, according to authorities.
Cambodian authorities expect the death toll from the fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino in Poipet to rise, and rescuers who crossed the nearby Thai border to help told CNN on Friday that more bodies had been found trapped inside the hotel rooms.
Somboon Kwan-uam, with thailand Poh Teck Tung Foundation, said smoke levels in the corridors were lower on Friday after hampering earlier rescue efforts when many of the victims were found dead from smoke inhalation locked inside their hotel rooms.
“We found seven more bodies in the rooms on the second floor,” Somboon said Friday.
Some of the bodies of the victims were expected to be transported back to Thailand on Friday, it added.
Another 70 people were injured in the fire, Banteay Meanchey province spokesman Sek Sokhom told CNN earlier.
The cause of the fire is unknown and the Cambodian government has set up a committee to investigate, Sek Sokhom said on Friday.
Thai rescuers responding to emergency calls from Cambodian authorities said some victims had jumped to their deaths from the burning building in a frantic attempt to escape.
“Two people died immediately when they hit the ground and around four or five (others) broke their legs,” said Peerapan Srisakorn of the Aranyaprathet Rescue Foundation.
Videos on the group’s Facebook page showed rescuers wearing helmets and protective gear walking through smoke-filled hallways.
Sek Sokhom said the hotel used an electrical system for the rooms and elevators, so when the fire started and the building lost power, many people were trapped in their rooms and unable to escape.
Approximately 700 Thai citizens were rescued and sent to hospitals in Thailand, according to authorities.
Some 300 police officers, 11 fire trucks and several helicopters were deployed to the scene, according to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Police Commissioner May. General Sithi Loh. The narrow and elevated design of the hotel had made it difficult to fully assess the state of the fire, he added.
A transportation hub between Siem Reap in Cambodia and the Thai capital Bangkok, Poipet is known for its multiple casinos and is home to many Thais who work in the city’s gambling industry. Almost all forms of gambling are illegal in Thailand, which is why many Thais cross the border to gamble legally.
Photos from the scene Wednesday night showed huge, bright amber flames and plumes of smoke billowing from the complex.
Peerapan of the Aranyaprathet Rescue Foundation previously told CNN that he suspected the fire started in a restaurant on the ground floor before spreading to other parts of the complex. “Some people ran to the roof, (thinking) that the Cambodians might have a rescue crane to help, but they didn’t have one,” he said.
Weather conditions may have helped the fire spread, he added.
“It was very windy last night,” he said. “The fire quickly spread to the upper floors and then to all sides, engulfing the entire building.”
He said he also saw a building lose power and the lights go out.
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