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22 employees, gamblers dead in Cambodian casino-hotel inferno

THE HUGE FIRE at the three-building casino-hotel complex in Cambodia’s Poipet border town, just across from Aranyaprathet subdistrict, Sa Kaeo province, has killed 22 employees and gamblers so far with 53 injured and eight still missing, Thai Rath newspaper said today (Dec. 30).

Eyewitnesses said the blaze at Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino which started at around midnight and turned this large complex into a sea of fire was sparked by short-circuiting of a spotlight in the ground floor main hall where around a hundred gamblers were busy at the gaming tables.

The security guard sprayed a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze but the flames rose to the ceiling and spread very quickly. People then chaotically ran out.

Many of those trapped in the guestrooms climbed out of the window, with some of them jumping down while others escaped to the roof.

Cambodian authorities were unable to control the blaze and asked Thai authorities for help with Sa Kaeo Governor Prinya Phothisat quickly sending firetrucks and rescuers across the border. Even so it was 10 hours before the inferno was brought under control.

Initially it was reported by TV Channel 8 that the major shareholder of this hotel and casino complex is Mr. Wattana Asavahem, a well-known former Thai politician. It is just 200 metres away from Rong Kluea Market and Ban Khlong Luek Permanent Checkpoint.

After the blaze started at the eight-storey casino and hotel upfront it soon engulfed the whole building and then spread to the 17-storey hotel at the rear. Moreover, the fierce fire also spread to the pedestrian bridge and then further to an eight-storey resort across the road turning the complex into a sea of fire that lit up the whole town.

Firemen tried their best to extinguish the raging inferno but it was difficult because it had spread to three buildings that had lots of flammable materials.

Most of the employees and gamblers were Thai who chaotically ran for their life in panic. Some who were trapped in their room tied sheets to slide down while others climbed out of the window and jumped down where rescuers spread fabric to save them.

Others fled to the rooftop but when the fire spread upwards they could not tolerate the heat and jumped down. Some were saved but others died.

Some of them took videoclips of the fire amid loud screams for help and shared it on social media

It was 11 a.m yesterday, around 10 hours after the fire had started spreading, that it was brought under control. 

Ruamkatanyu Foundation Managing Director Somsak Palwat more than 50 firefighters and a lot of equipment was sent to support the extinguishing of the blaze. The team reported that it was a depressing picture with many people dead, burnt or trapped in the buildings, both in their room, the fire escape and the rooftop with some having jumped to their death.

The death toll of the horrific inferno was initially 21 but as one victim died while being transported to a Thai hospital it rose to 22. He was identified as Mr. Thiti Lertsantikul, 24, an employee of the hotel.

Eight bodies on the Cambodian side of the border have been identified as all being Thai women and all have been kept at Wat Trat, Poipet, waiting to be sent back to Thailand. The remaining 13 bodies are being held at Poipet and Sisophon hospitals with their identities being checked.


The fierce inferno at the three-building hotel and casino complex in Cambodia’s Poipet border town. Top photo: INN News, first and second insert: Thai Rath, Front Page photo: Amarin TV

Also read: Update: 12 dead in Cambodian casino fire, most of them Thai staff

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Watch video clip of the inferno shared by BNN Cambodia below:


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