7 dead, 21 injured after building collapses in Cambodia

An ambulance near Phnom Penh in Cambodia

An ambulance near Phnom Penh in Cambodia

Seven people were killed when an under-construction building in Cambodia collapsed early on Saturday, an official said, as rescuers struggled to reach dozens of missing workers feared trapped under a mountain of twisted steel and rubble.

At least 13 people were injured.

Thul Phorsda, police chief of Sihanoukville city, confirmed the death toll and said a Chinese woman was being "detained for questioning" over the fatal accident, but declined to give further details.

Government-affiliated Fresh News quoted the lead rescue team as saying as of midnight Saturday, 15 bodies were pulled from the rubble of the seven-storey Chinese-owned building, in Sihanoukville, west of the capital Phnom Penh.

There was no confirmation of precisely how many people were at the building at the time of the collapse, though earlier officials said 30 people were feared trapped. The collapsed building is Chinese-owned, according to Saroeun.

With the rescue attempt stretching into the afternoon, authorities remained unable to say how many people were working at the time in a country where informal labour is common.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on his official Facebook page that the Cambodian workers were using the unfinished structure as their sleeping quarters.

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"The building did not comply with construction codes and it is an illegal construction because they don't have a construction permit", the statement said.

All of the dead were Cambodian, including two workers and a translator.

Chinese investment has flooded Cambodia in recent years, spurring a construction boom in a resort town known for casinos which pull in Chinese tourists, according to AFP.

The last three years has seen the area change beyond recognition, with the construction of dozens of casinos catering nearly exclusively to Chinese tourists.

The building belonged to a Chinese national who leased the land from a Cambodian owner, governor Yun Min added.

Cambodia has lax safety laws and labour protections.

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