Cambodia resort building collapse toll rises to 17

Rescue workers
Rescue workers search for victims in the debris a day after an under-construction building collapsed in Sihanoukville on June 23, 2019. Cambodian rescue workers picked through the rubble of a Chinese-owned building on June 23 in a desperate search for survivors after at least 17 people died when the under-construction building collapsed at a beach town. / AFP / SUN RETHY Kun

PHNOM PENH - - Rescue workers on Sunday picked through the rubble of a collapsed Chinese-owned building in a Cambodian beach town in a desperate search for survivors, after the construction site accident killed at least 17 people.

One person was pulled alive from the flattened seven-storey building late Saturday, more than 12 hours after it collapsed in the beach resort of Sihanoukville.

By Sunday morning rescuers had scoured barely half of the debris of twisted metal, glass and large concrete slabs.

The once sleepy fishing village has seen a Chinese construction boom buoyed by tourists to its dozens of casinos in recent years, with questions raised on the speed of development in a nation notorious for lax safety standards.

Three Chinese nationals and a Cambodian landowner have been held for questioning over the building collapse, which Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed on “carelessness” by the construction company.

At least 1,000 rescue workers, soldiers, police, medics and Chinese construction experts have been deployed to the site.

Some wore hard hats and oxygen tanks as they searched alongside several construction diggers, while the relatives of the injured waited at nearby hospitals for news.

Rescuers pulled several bodies from the rubble late Saturday, shooting the death toll up to 17, with 24 injured.

A provincial official said “teams have searched about 40 percent of the debris”, prompting concerns the toll will rise.

“We fear more bodies are trapped in the debris because the search has not reached the bottom of the building yet,” the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.