25 killed in collapse of Chinese condo building in Cambodia

The Chinese owner of an un-permitted seven-storey condominium building nearly complete in Sihanoukville, Cambodia has been arrested after it collapsed early Saturday, killing at least 25 people, including workers, who were asleep inside.

Twenty-four others were injured in the total collapse, which will heighten concern over unregulated construction as Chinese cash fuels a building blitz of hotels and casinos at this once-sleepy fishing village.

Provincial authorities said the condominium was being built without permits and that its Chinese owner, Chen Kun, had been warned twice about problems and had been ordered to stop construction, The New York Times reports.

Yun Min, Governor of Preah Sihanouk province, this morning resigned from his post, asking on his Facebook page for "forgiveness from the families of all the victims". 

Also arrested were a Chinese building contractor, Deng Xing Gui; a Chinese concrete wall contractor, Gao Yu; and Nhek Huy, a Cambodian who owned the land, reports Khmer Times.

The death toll hit 25 today as rescue crews continued clearing debris. Among the dead are four females. 

The building was about 80% complete, those involved in its construction told the New York Times.

One, Ek Tha, who managed a team of 15 people cementing bathroom tiles and painting walls said 12 of his crew members were still missing.

The death toll hit 25 today as rescue crews continued clearing debris (From a video posted on the Facebook page of Yun Min, Governor of Preah Sihanouk province)

A mother and farmer from Battambang province, Nga Mon, told the newspaper that her daughter and son-in-law were among the dead. "They had only been working here for three days," she said. "I am full of regret."

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived at the scene Monday, saying he would take personal charge of the rescue operation as diggers and hundreds of rescuers cleared twisted metal and concrete around the clock.

Up to 60 people, including workers and their families, are thought to have been in the building when it collapsed.

One, a 16-year-old girl who was pinned for 24 hours under the rubble, told Khmer Times that her parents, with whom she worked on the site, were still missing.

Formerly a fishing village and destination for backpackers wanting to go off the beaten track, in recent years Sihanoukville has bristled with high-rise hotels and more than 50 casinos to cater for an influx of Chinese tourists, for whom gambling, forbidden to Cambodians, is permitted.

Around $1bn flowed into Preah Sihanouk province between 2016 and 2018 from Chinese state and private sources, reports Deutsche Welle, citing official statistics.

Lending billions for infrastructure and development, China has become Cambodia’s most influential sponsor.

Its ruler for 33 years, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who won an unopposed election in July 2018, has warmly embraced Chinese investment. 

Top image: ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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  1. Hardly surprising. Visited Sihanoukville in May this year.
    As with most things in the ‘developing world’ the standards of construction, methods used and quality control is appalling.
    It’s very unfortunate for those affected but sadly, not surprising.

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