China / World

Building collapse rescue ends with 36 dead

(XINHUA) Updated: 2020-01-07 00:00

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

At least a dozen bodies were found in overnight 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 neighboring Thailand, and families of workers also often live at the construction sites.

At a news conference at the site, Hun Sen said the couple who owned the building and hired the construction crew had been detained and sent to court to face charges. He did not specify the charges. A committee was being set up to determine the cause of the collapse.

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-were not of a strong enough gauge.

Hun Sen expressed his deepest sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured people in the incident.

He said families of the victims who died would receive $52,500 each and those who were injured would get $10,000 each.

Chinese help

According to the provincial authority, more than 1,000 rescuers, including Chinese experts, had taken part in the rescue efforts.

Hun Sen said the rescue operation took 43 hours and 20 minutes, explaining that it was necessary to proceed carefully to ensure that the diggers would not harm people trapped under the rubble.

Hun Sen highly praised the rescuers, particularly the Chinese experts, for their active involvement in humanitarian activities.

"I'd like to thank the experienced Chinese experts, who are working in Preah Sihanouk Province, for coming to help us rescue victims here," the prime minister said.

A senior provincial police officer had said on Friday that the accident occurred after concrete had been poured on the top level of the building.

The survivor found on Sunday morning was a young woman pulled from the rubble by members of Rapid Rescue Company 711, a military unit that is the country's elite specialized emergency rescue team.

Hun Sen posted a video of the rescue on his Facebook page. He traveled to the site on Friday "to lead the rescue team", he announced on Facebook. He also visited the provincial hospital where the injured were being treated.

In June last year, a seven-story building collapsed in Sihanoukville, another coastal area in Cambodia, leaving at least 28 people dead and 26 injured.

Building collapse rescue ends with 36 dead
A rescue team carry a victim from the collapsed building which was under construction in Kep, Cambodia, on Saturday. REUTERS
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