Cambodian rescuers find new survivors from building collapse

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Search and rescue teams in Cambodia yesterday found more survivors of a building collapse in the coastal province of Kep that killed at least five people.

By yesterday morning, 18 people had been rescued, injured but alive, and crowds watched in the afternoon as two more were pulled out and rushed to ambulances more than 20 hours after the accident.

The website of the National Police reported that the Cambodian couple who owned the property and hired the construction workers were detained by provincial police for questioning yesterday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen went to the coastal province of Kep on Friday “to lead the rescue team,” he announced on his Facebook page. He also visited the provincial hospital where the injured were being treated. Several of the hospitalized survivors were reported to be in critical condition.

Hun Sen announced yesterday morning a casualty toll of seven dead and 18 injured, amid confusion about how many workers had been at the site and were still missing.

The discrepancy in the death toll has not been explained. Nguon Samet, Deputy Police Chief of Kep province said it was believed some people were still trapped under rubble, but he could not say how many. Relatives of some of those still missing gathered outside the site to pray, he said.

Nguon Samet had said that the seven-story building apparently collapsed on Friday when concrete was being poured on its top level. Kep provincial authorities announced that a committee had been formed to officially investigate the cause of the accident.

The collapse of a building under construction last June in Sihanoukville, another coastal province, killed 28 construction workers and injured 26 others, underlining concerns about the area’s rapid development and inattention to safety.

The coastal area has been rapidly built up to cater to a booming tourism industry.

In December, a Buddhist temple collapsed while under construction in Siem Reap, home of Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples, killing at least three people and injuring 13, including two monks.

Emergency workers conduct a recovery operation inside a collapsed building in Kep province, southern Cambodia. PHOTO: AP