Friday, 22 November, 2019

17 dead after building collapses in Cambodia

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Survivors are rescued from the rubble Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Survivors are rescued from the rubble
Patty Aguilar | 24 June, 2019, 12:14

"We are afraid more of it will collapse on them. we will work through the night to remove the steel."

Hun Sen said he would oversee the rescue operation at the site in Sihanoukville, where the building collapsed early Saturday on top of dozens of workers sleeping inside. The construction firm and contractor were both Chinese-owned as well.

Cheap Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for the domestic human right groups Adhoc told RFA's Khmer Service that the collapsed building was the latest example of illegal construction enabled by systematic corruption in Cambodia.

Authorities said they had detained four Chinese nationals involved in the construction. They were trapped for 12 hours before rescuers found them.

A series of bodies were found overnight on Sunday as rescuers used diggers and drills to shift the rubble.

A provincial official forecast the death toll is likely to rise as teams have searched just about 40 percent of the debris and have yet to reach the bottom of the building.

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"We have pulled out a body and we see two more bodies still stuck between debris", Yun Min, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, told AFP.

Previously a small fishing village, it has changed beyond recognition over the last three years with the construction of dozens of hotels, and casinos catering nearly exclusively to Chinese tourists. He said an investigation has been launched into the cause of the collapse.

"The tragedy of the building collapse in Preah Sihanouk province is painful. for our nation, especially the families of those who lost (their lives)", Mr Hun Sen said. There are an estimated 200,000 construction workers in Cambodia, most unskilled, reliant on day wages and not protected by union rules, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Cambodia has not kept pace with the construction boom 'to ensure safety and health of the sector's workforce, the ILO has said.

Beijing is pouring investment into Cambodia as part of its behemoth Belt and Road initiative, a sweeping trillion-dollar infrastructure programme across Asia, Africa and Europe. The south-western town of Sihanoukville has been flooded with Chinese investments, which sparked a building frenzy to cater to mainland tourists flooding the town's casinos, beaches and glitzy hotels.

Between 2016 and 2018, $1 billion was invested by Chinese government and private businesses in the Preah Sihanouk province, according to official statistics.

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