Spotlight: Death toll rises to 7, couple rescued alive 21 hours after building collapse in Cambodia

Source: Xinhua| 2020-01-04 19:33:25|Editor: mingmei
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by Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei

KEP, Cambodia, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- A local couple were rescued alive after trapped for 21 hours under the debris of a collapsed six-floor building in southwest Cambodia's Kep province, a provincial spokesman said on Saturday.

"At 2:10 p.m. local time today, the rescue team had pulled a couple out of the rubble alive, bringing the number of the injured to 20," Kep Provincial Information Department director and spokesman Ros Udong told Xinhua.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, who is leading the rescue team to search for the people trapped under the collapsed building, said besides the injured, seven others were killed in the incident.

"The rescue team is continuing to remove the concrete slaps and to cut metal fibers in order to search for more victims," he wrote on his Facebook on Saturday morning, adding that between 20 and 30 people, including foremen and construction workers, were in the building when it collapsed.

He said the building came down at around 4:30 p.m. on Friday in Kep city when workers were pouring concrete to build the seventh floor.

More than 1,000 rescuers had taken part in the rescue operation, and 12 excavators, four crane trucks, 10 ambulances, five firetrucks, and more than 10 dumper trucks had been used to remove the debris of the collapsed building.

In Savuth, a 37-year-old rescuer from the Kep Provincial Military Region 3, said he had spent the whole Friday night to search for the trapped.

"I'm a bit tired, but very happy because I had pulled out three female victims from the rubble, and one of them is alive," he told Xinhua. "My body is small, so it's easy for me to crawl into holes of debris to take out the victims."

Savuth said the survived woman got injured on her head, but she was still conscious when she was brought out of the wreckage.

"If I had not saved her on time, she must be died of suffocation because it was very difficult to breathe inside the debris," he said.

Relatives of the missing have waited anxiously since Friday night, as rescuers spare no effort to remove the rubble in search for more victims.

"My younger brother and sister as well as her husband are still missing under the debris," Mon Dos, the 26-year-old brother, told Xinhua in a somber voice. "I was extremely shocked when I got news from a fellow worker that my brother and sister were trapped under the collapsed building."

"I hope the rescuers will recover them soon, and I pray to the Buddha to save their lives because I have only two brothers and sister," he said.

Representatives of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (CCCC)'s branch in Sihavoukville province visited the site on Saturday and brought donations to express condolences to the victims and their families.

Ing Vuthy, an official at the Kep provincial government accepted the donation and expressed gratitude. "Chinese friends' care and help symbolize our friendship. The donation will be used to help the injured people in the accident."

Some Chinese people brought water, food and tools and some were working together with Cambodian rescue teams on site.

Survivors said they are very lucky to be alive in such a deadly building collapse.

"It's like I was born again. When I got trapped in the debris, I had no hope to survive," Bal Pheap, 38, told Xinhua while being hospitalized at the Kep Provincial Hospital for his head injury.

"Under the debris, it was completely dark and difficult to breathe, and I just kept shouting desperately for help. Fortunately, rescuers found me about three hours after the incident," he said, adding that he was at the fifth floor when the collapse happened.

Pheap said his wife and a 17-year-old son as well as his sister remain trapped in the ground floor of the collapsed building and he did not know about their fate.

Kep Provincial Hospital's director Men Sothy said the victims had got injured mostly on heads, bodies and limbs.

"So far, all the injured victims are in stable condition and they are recovering," he told Xinhua.

Chhun Tith, head of the firefighting bureau in Kep province, said Ek Sarun, the Cambodian owner of the collapsed building, was detained for questioning over the tragic incident.

An official at the Kep Provincial Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said the building's owner had applied for a license to construct a five-story building, but he illegally built it up to seven floors.

"This is perhaps the main cause of the collapse," he said while visiting the collapsed building.

Located about 160 km southwest of capital Phnom Penh, the coastal province of Kep is an emerging tourist destination, and the tiny province is known for its seafood and tropical islands.