Plans To Rebuild Cambodian Casino After Deadly Fire Leads to Outrage

The rubble and embers of the deadly fire at the Grand Diamond City Casino in Poipet, Cambodia, are still warm, but efforts are already underway to rebuild the property. This decision isn’t going over very well with victims’ relatives, as there are still a number of people missing.

Grand Diamond City Hotel Casino, Poipet, Cambodia
Grand Diamond City Hotel Casino, Poipet, Cambodia
The Grand Diamond City Hotel Casino in Poipet, Cambodia before and after a deadly fire killed scores and injured more in December. (Image: Booking.com and Radio Free Asia, before and after)

A few days ago, shortly after firefighters contained the blaze that killed at least 26 people, demolition to a couple of the property’s buildings began. That was reportedly to give rescue personnel safer access to the grounds in order to search for people who were still unaccounted for.

However, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported yesterday that the rescue efforts have stopped, and that engineers are now developing plans to rebuild the property. This is despite the fact that at least three Cambodians and nine Thais have yet to be found.

Driven By Greed

RFA reported one person, whose wife is still missing, as saying that the property is “prioritizing money over human life.” Authorities reportedly worked to retrieve seven large safes from the property, all filled with cash, while suspending the search for the 12 people still missing.

A spokesperson for the provincial government, Sek Sokhom, confirmed the ongoing activity. He added that engineers are in the process of removing debris from the site. However, the process doesn’t include searching for possible survivors or, worse, recovering the bodies of those who may have perished.

A government official from Thailand, Thawatchai Bunseng, said in a statement that if Cambodia called off the search, there’s nothing that can be done. Thailand provided crucial assistance after the fire began, delivering emergency personnel and accepting some of the more than 100 hundred injured at its hospitals.

There is concern for finding the dozen people that are still missing, as well as frustration. The demolition efforts and retrieval of material could make it more difficult to determine the cause of the blaze. Crucial evidence may disappear, which means holding someone accountable for what happened will become virtually impossible.

The Blame Game Begins

Some officials monitoring the situation have already blamed the casino owners, as well as local authorities. They argue that the owners didn’t implement proper building codes and the authorities knowingly looked the other way. However, those are just unsubstantiated claims pending the outcome of the investigation.

One of the victims who managed to escape the fast-moving blaze reported that the property had no fire alarms. In addition, he said it didn’t have enough exits to handle the number of people present that night. However, the speed with which the fire spread would have likely made alarms and more exits irrelevant.

Previous reports stated that the hotel used an electronic key system for its guest rooms. This apparently failed when the power went out. As a result, it was impossible for some of the guests to escape, as they were trapped inside their rooms.

Initial indications are that the resort had perhaps gone too far with its decorations for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Overloaded electrical sockets led to cables overheating and melting, producing the fire.

However, that can only be part of the equation. The magnitude of the disaster isn’t likely to occur from a few overloaded circuits. If engineers are removing the debris as RFA reported, the true cause might never be determined.

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