Cambodian rescuers struggled on Thursday to extricate dozens of people feared trapped after a fire broke out at a casino in a town on the Thai border, killing at least 10 and injuring dozens, officials said.
A key part of Cambodia's tourism industry, important for its economy, casinos in the capital of Phnom Penh and on the borders with Vietnam and Thailand are a draw for visitors from Asian nations that ban gambling.
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Khieu Sopheak, a spokesperson of the interior ministry, said it was not clear how many people were still trapped in the Grand Diamond City casino and hotel in the town of Poipet, where the blaze started at around midnight.
"We don't know how many are trapped inside and now we are only trying to save lives," he said, adding that the casino had about 400 employees. The cause of the fire was still unclear, he said.
Casinos in Poipet are hugely popular with short-term Thai visitors in particular, as gambling is illegal and unlicensed casinos operate underground in the neighbouring country.
At least 25 people were being treated in hospitals in Sa Kaeo province across the border, Thai authorities said.
Provincial authorities said one Thai national had died in hospital and 70% of those affected showed symptoms of smoke inhalation.
Cambodian police said hundreds of personnel from military, police and rescue teams had joined the rescue effort.
Video images showed a crew in the fire escape stairwell of a building putting on respirator masks and fire-resistant hoods before entering a smoke-filled corridor in footage shared by the Ruamkatanya Foundation, a Thai volunteer team that assisted.
It also showed people crowded together with firefighters at a rooftop bar in daylight, shielding their mouths from smoke pouring out of the doors and windows of lower floors.
Provincial and hospital officials in Cambodia could not immediately be reached for comment.
On Thursday, Cambodia's Fresh News showed images of the smoke-blackened facade of a casino, with fires still burning on the ground floor and charred debris on the pavement outside.
Dramatic nighttime video footage showed flames engulfing parts of the building amid thick billows of smoke.
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