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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Casino inferno blamed on electrical fault

A rescue team walks through the grounds of the burned-out Grand Diamond City hotel-casino in Poipet on Thursday. (AFP Photo)

POIPET, Cambodia: An electrical fault caused the devastating Poipet casino fire that killed 27 people, many of them Thais, Cambodian authorities said on Saturday.

Many of the bodies were found in stairways or trapped in rooms at the Grand Diamond City hotel-casino complex, after rescuers failed to reach them in time on Wednesday night and early Thursday.

“The accident was caused by an electrical short circuit,” said Kun Kim, deputy chairman of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

“Some people were burned to death, some died because of a lack of oxygen, and some were burned and died along exit ways,” he said.

He said authorities took too long to put out the flames, blaming the hotel-casino’s complex layout, as well as a lack of rescue equipment.

Cambodian emergency teams called off their efforts on Friday evening as night fell, with Kun Kim confirming that teams had searched all of the complex.

Searchers failed to find any new bodies Friday afternoon at the disaster site, although more dead had been expected to be found.

He said that 26 people — 17 Thais, one Malaysian and one Nepalese among them — had died in the blaze. Other bodies were still being identified. A 27th person was reported to have died in a hospital in Aranyaprathet, just across the border in Thailand, after being transported there.

It was reported earlier that all 27 of those who perished were Thai nationals but that figure is expected to be revised.

Um Reatrey, the governor of Banteay Meanchey province, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press that 17 of the dead were from Thailand, one each from Nepal, Malaysia and China, and six bodies were yet to be identified.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Office in Sa Kaeo province said that of the 112 people injured in the blaze, 27 remained in hospitals as of Friday and 85 had returned to their homes.

Cambodian authorities said they were deliberating whether charges would be brought against the hotel owners. The complex is reported to have been owned by fugitive Thai politician Vatana Asavahame, a key figure in one of the biggest corruption cases in the country's history.

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