Hundreds of soldiers and rescuers frantically picked through the rubble of a collapsed building in southern Cambodia on Saturday looking for bodies as the death toll from the disaster rose to seven.
They used excavators, drills and power saws to clear concrete the morning after the seven-storey hotel under construction in seaside Kep province crumbled to the ground with an estimated 30 workers inside, prompting an all-night rescue.
It was the latest deadly accident to mar the kingdom’s poorly regulated building sector even as hotels, high-rises and casinos spring up in a construction boom.
Cambodian leader Hun Sen, who travelled to the site on Friday evening, said on his official Facebook page that seven people had been killed so far while the “search continues”.
Eighteen survivors were also pulled out of the debris, according to the Kep provincial administration, but tearful relatives were waiting for more information about loved ones who had not been found.
“I don’t have any hope, because the rubble is piled up,” Has Rith told AFP in the early hours of Saturday.
“I could not reach them by phone.”
There are an estimated 200,000 construction workers in Cambodia, most unskilled, reliant on day wages and not protected by union rules, according to the International Labour Organization.
Worker advocates point to low standards at construction sites that raise the risk of accidents.
Labourers can often be seen shirtless, working with little protective gear, and sleeping in mosquito nets inside the building in progress.
In June nearly 30 people died after the collapse of a building under construction in Sihanoukville, a beach town undergoing a Chinese investment bonanza.
Last month at least three workers died and more than a dozen others were seriously injured after an under-construction dining hall at a temple collapsed in the tourist town of Siem Reap.