Posted on: December 29, 2022, 02:04h. 

Last updated on: December 29, 2022, 11:37h.

Update: Authorities have increased the death toll to 19 and report that 58 people are still missing.

At least 11 people have died and 30 were injured during a huge fire that consumed a casino located in the Cambodian city of Poipet, close to the border with Thailand, according to local police. Firefighters contained the blaze, but authorities are still searching for victims.

Cambodia casino fire
Firefighters battle a blaze at the Grand Diamond City Casino & Hotel in Poipet, Cambodia. The fire is under control, but it has left numerous people dead or injured. (Image: Peerapan Srisakorn via CNN)

In videos witnesses published on social media, a group of people trapped on the roof of the Grand Diamond City Casino & Hotel can be seen. Some of them eventually jumped to avoid the flames and didn’t survive the fall.

The fire reportedly started on Wednesday around 11:30 p.m. local time in the complex. Although it is now under control, police told the Cambodian media that there are still small pockets that could flare up. This makes entering the structure and rescuing more victims more difficult.

Out of Control

There was a lot of activity at the property at the time the fire started, a result of the time of year and the time of day. Police are still trying to figure out how many guests may have been present, but believe hundreds of people were in the hotel and casino when the fire began.

The property employs around 400 workers. One media outlet reported that around 50 Thai employees and guests were initially trapped. However, it didn’t provide an update on their current condition.

The flames spread rapidly throughout the building, making evacuation difficult. Rescue teams had to use helicopters to evacuate groups of people who had climbed onto the roof.

Emergency personnel – at least 360, according to local media – came from both Cambodia and Thailand, the latter because of the property’s proximity to the border. Some of the injured were sent to Thai hospitals for treatment.

Fire investigators and government personnel will try to figure out what happened once it’s safe to enter the structure. In the meantime, they will talk to witnesses to gather as much information as possible.

Peercapan Srisakorn of the Aranyaprathet Rescue Foundation has a theory of where, but not why, the blaze started. He arrived on the scene to provide assistance, and CNN reports he believes the blaze may have started in a restaurant on one of the lower floors.

After it began to spread and chaos ensued, many panicked guests headed for the roof. Peercapan assumes they thought there might be a rescue crane available by then.

But there wasn’t.

Poipet Popular with Thai Gamblers

Poipet is a gateway city between Thailand and Cambodia. Because Thailand still has no land-based casinos, the properties on the Cambodian side welcome a steady flow of Thai gamblers.

This is a busy time of year for the casinos, as they attract even more customers because of the holiday period. Over the next few days, more information and precise figures on traffic in the city will become available.

A Cambodia-based company, Grand Exclusive, reportedly owns and operates Grand Diamond. The company’s website page isn’t working, but it explains on its LinkedIn page that the property first opened in 2001 and offers 355 rooms and suites, six restaurants, a casino, and other amenities.

The company also owns and operates the Poipet Resort & Casino, which opened a year before Grand Diamond. This property has 190 rooms and suites, a slightly smaller casino, four restaurants, and other amenities.