Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his condolences and sorrow in response to the fire that tore through the Grand Diamond City Casino in Poipet town of Banteay Meanchey province, at the border with Thailand, on December 28.

The blaze killed 16 people and injured 73 others. The prime minister cited the lack of firefighting equipment available there to service the high rise building as a factor in the tragedy.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a road construction project on December 30, Hun Sen said the fire was put out on the evening of December 29 following the arrival of fire engines from the Ministry of Interior.

“I would like to take this occasion to offer my condolences to the families of the 16 people who lost their lives and to the dozens of others who were injured in a fire at a casino in Poipet,” he said.

He said that more firefighting equipment and resources must be put in place in all areas with high rise buildings to avoid such an incident from recurring.

“The building has 16 stories and the fire in the building could not be controlled because there was no way for the fire engine they had on hand to reach the upper floors. They needed a much stronger engine with more water pressure to be able to hit it from a distance. Our firefighters worked until late into the night last night putting out that fire,” he said.

According to Hun Sen, search operations in the rubble are ongoing and more bodies could be discovered, thus taking the death toll even higher.

He said, among the 16 who reportedly died, 12 bodies have been found. When the incident occurred, there were more than 1,000 customers and more than 500 staff at Grand Diamond City Casino.

“This is a tragedy, coming at the end of the year like this, it’s a really bad one. Having witnessed this, we will continue to invest in more fire safety equipment and all high rise buildings must have a more powerful fire engine,” he said.

Hun Sen also thanked the Thai authorities and Cambodian officials from different units for their rescue efforts and said the place must be cleaned up and put back into good public order so the border crossing can be kept open with minimal interruption to travel back and forth.

“I request that public order be swiftly restored to open the Poipet border crossing as it is a busy checkpoint for passengers and goods passing through,” he said. “We must be vigilant about the razed building, however, as it could collapse anytime. It is a big regret that such a terrible thing could happen at the end of this year.”

Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Um Reatrey said that there was a concerted effort underway through the night to treat all of the injured victims and put the fire out with help from the military and the police as well as significant assistance from the Thai government and that between them the fire didn’t spread to any other structures.

The preliminary investigation into the cause of fire indicates that it may have been an electricity malfunction at the lower retail levels of the building which then spread to other floors, Reatrey said.