By: Jörg Vogelsänger
Bangkok — At least 19 people have been killed in a fire that engulfed a casino hotel in north-western Cambodia, according to media reports on Thursday.
The fire broke out in the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino in Poipet, a town near the Thai border, early on Wednesday, trapping people inside the building.
It was initially unclear what had caused the blaze, however some reports have pointed to a possible gas explosion in the high-end casino’s kitchen area. No official confirmation has been made of the fire’s origin.
More than 400 people had been in the building when the fire broke out, most of them Thai nationals, a spokesperson for the city administration was quoted as saying by The Phnom Penh Post.
At least 70 of those in the building were injured, local authorities told US broadcaster CNN.
The hotel is popular among Thais as gambling is prohibited in the neighbouring country. Poipet has about 100,000 inhabitants and is about 350 kilometres from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
Videos in local media and on social media platforms showed people seeking refuge from the flames on window ledges, some even jumping from heights, and at least two people were killed instantly when they hit the ground, rescue officials from Thailand told media.
The fire appears to have started on the first floor and then spread rapidly before engulfing the casino and spreading to neighbouring buildings. It took about nine hours to bring the blaze under control, officials.
More than 300 firefighters and helicopters were deployed, authorities told media. Rescue workers from the nearby Thai city of Aranyaprathet also rushed to help.
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