Cambodia building collapse toll rises to 29 as search enters 3rd day

The death toll from a building collapse in southern Cambodia rose to 29 on Sunday morning, as a frantic search for the dead and injured entered a third day.

Hundreds of soldiers and rescuers worked through the night using excavators, drills and power saws to clear concrete after an under-construction seven-storey hotel in seaside Kep province crumbled to the ground on Friday.

Officials had initially estimated that 30 workers remained trapped under the flattened structure.

But provincial spokesman Ros Udong told AFP the number of injured and dead was higher than anticipated, as more bodies were recovered in the early hours of Sunday.

Apart from the 29 dead, Udong said, 23 survivors were pulled out.

Five children were among the dead, according to rescuers.

Cambodia is undergoing a construction boom, with hotels, high-rises and casinos springing up under little regulatory oversight.

The tough — and often dangerous — work is undertaken by an estimated 200,000 construction workers, mostly unskilled, reliant on day wages and not protected by union rules, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Worker advocacy groups point to low safety standards that raise the risk of accidents at construction sites — which often serve as the temporary homes for the labourers and their families.

Worker Ei Kosal told AFP on Saturday that he, his wife and two other women were having a meal on site when the building collapsed.

Their two companions were crushed and immediately killed.

“I did not expect to survive… it’s like I have just been reborn,” Kosal said while recuperating at the hospital.

In June, 28 people died after the collapse of a building under construction in Sihanoukville, a beach town flush with Chinese investment as Cambodia seeks to make it the “New Macau”.

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