Technical officers from the Banteay Meanchey provincial land management department – in collaboration with engineers and construction workers hired by Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino – have carried out the demolition operation on one of the buildings that was completely destroyed by fire on the night of December 28.
Poipet town governor Keat Hul told The Post on January 1 that search and rescue operations at the hotel and casino were completely finished on December 30 after a 39 hour search-and-rescue operation was carried out following the extinguishing of the fire earlier.
Poipet authorities announced a final death toll of 26 with 57 injured, a number they did not anticipate would rise further.
The joint commission also assessed that all of the casino buildings were too damaged by fire to possibly repair and needed to be demolished immediately.
"Now we see the engineers and construction workers on-site are moving heavy machinery into place to dismantle and demolish the casino buildings," he said.
According to Hul, authorities used a total of 1,009 police officers and firefighters from 14 different units along with 221 additional rescuers from Thailand. There were 58 ambulances and fire trucks on the scene to render medical aid and put out the multi-story blaze.
Of the four buildings the fire spread, three of them consisting of five stories each are considered a total loss, including one that boasted a pedestrian bridge that stretched over the border at the entrance of the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined and not likely to be known until the property damage is fully surveyed by the demolition crew.
Of the 26 victims killed in the fire, 17 were Thai, one Chinese, one Nepali and one Malaysian. The other six have not been identified yet because their bodies were burnt.
"In this incident, not a single Cambodian employee was killed that we know of, but we are awaiting the results of the autopsies. They will examine the bodies of the six victims who were burnt and use DNA to identify them later," Hul said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen called the incident one of the worst tragedies to occur in recent memory anywhere in Cambodia and a truly sad way to end 2022.
At the same time, he said the government will equip some equipment that can be used to intervene to rescue in high-rise buildings when there is a fire by providing trucks that can put out fires in those structures.
Hun Sen also called for the use of more powerful fire engines at all locations that have high-rise buildings present due to the need for powerful hoses with water pressure that can hit the upper floors of those buildings with enough water.
Poipet authorities used the Ministry of Interior's fire trucks as well as fire engines from Thailand to put out the blaze before it spread to other buildings, but the lack of appropriate fire engines already stationed in Poipet and under the town hall’s control may have delayed matters.
Hul also thanked the Thai side for participating in the firefighting operation and rescuing more than 1,000 patrons and more than 500 staff members during the emergency response.
On December 30, Ichitomo Taninai, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh, also sent this condolences message on behalf of his government and the Japanese people.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the fire at the casino in Poipet. [We] would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and wish the injured a quick recovery. May the souls of the deceased rest in peace," he wrote on his official Facebook page.