ImageThe site where an unfinished Chinese-owned building collapsed in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Saturday.CreditCreditSun Rethy Kun/Agence France-Pre
Property Flat Villa real estate ImageThe site where an unfinished Chinese-owned building collapsed in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Saturday.CreditCreditSun Rethy Kun/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia — At least 24 people were killed and another 24 injured in the collapse of a Chinese-owned building under construction in a Cambodian coastal city, the police said on Monday, a project that the authorities said had lacked required permits and had continued despite orders to cease work.The collapse early Saturday of the seven-story building highlighted the danger of unregulated construction as the city, Sihanoukville, has been transformed by a flood of Chinese investment.Three Chinese citizens and a Cambodian who had leased or sold the building site to the Chinese have been arrested, the Cambodian police said in a statement.The authorities in Preah Sihanouk Province, which includes Sihanoukville, said the work was being done without the proper permits. And Yun Min, the provincial governor, said that Chen Kun, identified by the authorities as the Chinese owner of the building, had been warned twice about serious problems at the site and had been ordered to stop construction.
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“We have prohibited construction very often,” Mr. Yun Min said. “Some listen, but some don’t and stealthily continue.”Nga Mon, a farmer from Battambang Province, said on Sunday that her daughter and son-in-law were among those killed. “They had only been working here for three days,” she said. “I am full of regret.”The couple left behind three sons, Ms. Nga Mon said.Only a few years ago, Sihanoukville was a sleepy beach town known for its laid-back backpacker vibe. But the city has changed rapidly with an influx of Chinese tourists. High-rise hotels and more than 50 casinos, many with gilt-edged flourishes, have replaced seafood shacks and hammocks on the beach.Ek Tha, who supervised 15 workers cementing bathroom tiles and painting walls at the construction site, said that 12 of his crew members were still missing. Around 80 percent of construction had been completed at the time of Saturday’s collapse.“We have little hope,” he said, standing near the destroyed building, where soldiers and police officers were sifting through the debris in hopes of finding survivors. The 18th body, pulled from the rubble on Sunday, belonged to one of his workers.ImageAn injured worker being carried from the site on Sunday.CreditMak Remissa/EPA, via ShutterstockMr. Ek Tha, who has worked in construction for a decade, said the materials used at the site, which he said was to be a hotel, were insufficient. “They just used metal,” he said. “It’s not enough.”Krouch Sothea, whose wife worked at a Japanese restaurant next to the crumpled building, said that the restaurant and the housing they lived in had also been destroyed. He, his wife and their 2-year-old son escaped by crawling through their roof, Mr. Krouch Sothea said.Since construction began on the building last fall, metal rods from the site had repeatedly fallen on his home, he said. No compensation for that damage had been provided by the Chinese owner, Mr. Krouch Sothea said.The construction blitz in Sihanoukville has alarmed residents, who complain that little of the Chinese investment flows into local pockets. Many of the service workers at hotels, restaurants and casinos are Chinese, as are real estate agents and employees at travel agencies.Some of the casinos under construction in Sihanoukville have been promoted as being part of China’s giant state-sponsored foreign infrastructure program, called the Belt and Road Initiative. But it is unclear how gambling establishments fit into a global investment push that is heralded by Beijing as benefiting poorer economies.ImageRecovering the body of a victim early on Monday.CreditTang Chhin Sothy/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesTechnically, gambling is illegal for Cambodians, but a legal loophole allows foreigners to gamble on Cambodian soil.Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, who is Asia’s longest-serving leader, with more than two decades in power, has moved Cambodia from the embrace of Western nations into China’s orbit. Beijing is now the country’s largest investor and patron.Mr. Hun Sen, who has dismantled the country’s democratic opposition, has described China as Cambodia’s true friend. He has criticized Western nations for tying their foreign aid, which poured in as Cambodia recovered from the genocidal years of the Khmer Rouge regime, to minimum human rights standards.“Let me ask those of you who have accused me of being too close to China: What have you offered me besides cursing and disciplining me and threatening to put sanctions on me?” he said last year.The Chinese Embassy in Cambodia on Sunday expressed its “deepest condolences to the families of the victims” and pledged to help in rescue efforts at the site of the collapse.Sun Narin reported from Sihanoukville, and Hannah Beech from Tokyo.A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Construction Site Collapse Kills at Least 24 Amid Cambodian City’s Building Boom. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe