Death toll in Cambodia building collapse rises

PHNOM PENH • The death toll from the collapse of a building under construction in Cambodia has surged to 36, even as an additional survivor was pulled from the rubble, officials said yesterday.

At least a dozen bodies were found in operations at the site in the coastal province of Kep, where the building toppled on Friday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the end of the rescue operation, confirming that 23 injured survivors were found.

A statement from Kep provincial authorities said at least 13 women and six children were among the dead. Women are often employed as construction workers in Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand, and families of workers also often live at the construction sites.

Mr Hun Sen said the couple who owned the building and hired the construction crew had been detained and will face charges in court. He did not specify the charges.

A committee is being set up to determine the cause of the collapse.

Mr Hun Sen said that according to preliminary findings, the building collapsed because the construction work failed to adhere to safety standards. He said that plywood that is normally put underneath the concrete separating each floor is supposed to remain in place for about one month to allow proper setting, but instead was removed after roughly 10 days.

He also indicated that the rebar - the steel rods assembled in a mesh to reinforce the concrete - was not of a strong enough gauge.

A senior provincial police officer last Friday said the accident occurred after concrete was poured on the top level of the building.

 
 
 

Mr Hun Sen called the incident a tragedy, but added that building collapses take place all over the world, including the United States. "This is a grievous event for our nation, that it met with this unfortunate incident," Mr Hun Sen said.

The survivor found yesterday morning - a young woman - was pulled from the rubble by members of the country's elite specialised emergency rescue team.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2020, with the headline 'Death toll in Cambodia building collapse rises'. Print Edition | Subscribe