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At least 36 people have been killed and 23 more were injured when a seven-story concrete building collapsed on January 3 in Cambodia. The incident took place in the coastal town of Kep, about 160 km (100 miles) southwest of the capital Phnom Penh.
A statement from Kep provincial authorities said that at least 14 women and six children are among the dead.
It is common in Cambodia and Thailand for women to be employed as construction workers. Families of workers would also often live at the construction sites for the duration of the construction. Kep Governor Ken Satha said that the owners of the building, a Cambodian couple, have been detained and questioned.
Government response to the tragedy
Prime Minister Hun Sen said that no officials will be fired as a result of the collapse. “Building collapses don’t only happen in Cambodia. They happen elsewhere including in the United States,” Hun Sen said. Hun Sen continued to say that the building collapsed because the construction work failed to adhere to safety standards.
In standard construction practice, plywood which is usually placed underneath the concrete separating each floor is supposed to remain for at least a month to allow for proper setting. In this case, the plywood was apparently removed after 10 days.
The owners of the building will be facing charges due to their negligence. According to Hun Sen, the rebar formed by steel rods assembled in a mesh to reinforce the concrete was not a strong enough gauge.
The PM has announced financial support for the families of the deceased and injured. “To help relieve the victims’ grief, I would like to contribute 40 million riel [$10,000] to each of the injured and 200 million riel plus 10 million riel towards the funeral expenses of each family of the dead,” he said.
Cambodia has been experiencing a construction boom – an effort to accommodate a growing tourism sector and to serve larger crowds of Chinese tourists and investors.
The Kep building collapse came six months after 28 people were killed in another building that had collapsed at a Chinese-owned construction site in Preah Sihanouk province. Seven people were charged in that incident for involuntary manslaughter and Hun Sen dismissed a disaster management official.
As a result, the PM ordered for the creation of the Committee for the Inspection of Quality in Buildings to inspect buildings in Preah Sihanouk in an effort to ensure that similar incidents would not occur.