Eighteen dead, 24 injured in Cambodia building collapse


PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Eighteen people were killed when an under-construction building in Cambodia collapsed early on Saturday, an official said, as rescuers struggled to reach missing workers feared trapped under a mountain of twisted steel and rubble.

A rescue team attempts to find the missing workers at a collapsed building in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The seven-storey steel and concrete structure in the coastal town of Sihanoukville, west of the capital Phnom Penh, was a Chinese-owned project.

At least 24 people were injured and some workers had been trapped inside the building soon after it collapsed, according to the office of the spokesman for the local province of Preah Sihanouk.

“The steel structure has collapsed on itself and we don’t dare move it,” the spokesman Oar Saroeun told Reuters on Saturday. “We can only wait and listen for any signs of life…

“We are afraid more of it will collapse on them…. We will work through the night to remove the steel.”

A statement issued on Sunday by Preah Sihanouk Province officials said 40% of the debris from the site had been cleared. It was not clear how many more people were missing.

Photos of the scene shared on social media showed groups of rescuers working their way through a crumpled heap of steel girders and concrete.

Preah Sihanouk province and its largest town, Sihanoukville, has seen a rush of investment in recent years from China, especially into the casino, property and tourism sectors.

Home to Cambodia’s largest port and a Chinese Special Economic Zone connected to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, the town is also undergoing a construction boom to serve growing crowds of Chinese tourists and investors.

Police have detained four people, including three construction supervisors, for questioning in relation to the accident, according to a statement from the province.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by John Stonestreet, Ros Russell and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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