A fire engulfed a casino hotel in a Cambodian gambling town along the Thai border on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and injuring at least 30, a Cambodian provincial official said.
The fire in Grand Diamond City started overnight and continued to rage Thursday afternoon, leaving the 17-story building on the brink of collapse, said Sek Sokhom, a spokesman for Banteay Meanchey province.
Mr Sek said he expected the number of victims to increase as “dozens” of people were still trapped, including hotel guests who were unable to leave rooms with electronic door locks that stopped working.
The fire was caused by an electrical short circuit, Mr. Sek said. We have a photo showing a flaming wire in a playroom.”
Grand Diamond City is located in Poipet, a rapidly growing city of 100,000 that is home to around 20 casinos. The city, about 220 miles northwest of the capital Phnom Penh, attracts thousands of tourists a day from nearby Thailand. Many come to gamble, which is illegal in both Cambodia and Thailand but allowed for foreign passport holders in Cambodia.
According to witnesses, the fire broke out in Grand Diamond City around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. About 400 people were at the casino hotel when the fire broke out, said Mr. Sek. Cambodian firefighters were assisted in fighting the blaze by Thai firefighters.
According to witnesses, the fire spread to a neighboring resort, the Poipet Resort Casino. “The buildings were completely destroyed by fires,” said Sin Sambath, 42, a Cambodian who was at the scene.
Some hotel guests jumped from windows to escape the flames, videos posted to social media showed. “They broke their legs and arms,” said Mr. Sin. The surrounding hospitals filled with patients injured by the fire. At least 100 people were rescued Thursday afternoon.
Families of those staying in Grand Diamond City eagerly awaited news outside. “I’m not allowed into the building, so there’s nothing I can do,” said Khieu Naron, 63, while awaiting information about her 22-year-old daughter-in-law Chana, an employee at Grand Diamond City, who she said was until worked up to 20 hours a day.
“I’m only 50 percent hopeful that she survived,” she said.
Most of the dead and injured were Thais, with some Indonesians and Filipinos, authorities said. Many of the injured have been taken to hospitals in Thailand for treatment, they added.
The Cambodian casino fire followed two other deadly fires at entertainment venues in Southeast Asia this year. In August, a fire at a Thai nightclub killed 26 people. In September, a fire at a Vietnamese karaoke bar killed 32 people.
The Cambodian government recently warned of an increased risk of fire during the dry season from November to April.