Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17

Nhor Chandeun, 31-year-old, center, one of nearly two dozen workers rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building lays on a bed as he talks to a reporter from The Associated Press at a hospital in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Saturday, June 22, 2019. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2019

Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17

  • Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble from the site

PHNOM PENH: The death toll in the collapse of a Chinese-owned building under construction at a Cambodian resort rose to 17 overnight, officials said Sunday, as rescue workers scrambled to find survivors buried under rubble.
The building went down before sunrise on Saturday in the casino-resort coastal town of Sihanoukville in southwestern Cambodia, a rapidly developing tourist hotspot awash with Chinese investment.
Four people have been detained in connection with the accident, including the Chinese building owner, the head of the construction firm and the contractor. A Cambodian landowner has also been held at provincial headquarters for questioning.
The seven-story building was nearing completion when it collapsed, reportedly trapping dozens in the deadliest such accident in recent years in Cambodia.

Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities said 17 people had died in the accident, with 24 injured, according to a statement sent to AFP.
Officials had earlier pinned the number of dead at seven.
More than 1,000 people including soldiers, police officers and medics worked overnight to search for survivors. Rescue workers earlier pulled victims from a mountain of concrete, wood and twisted metal, some in body bags or with dislocated limbs.
An investigation into the cause of the accident has been launched, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said negligence was to blame.
“The tragedy of the building collapse in Preah Sihanouk province is painful... for our nation, especially the families of those who lost” their lives, he said, announcing compensation of $10,000 each for the victims’ households.
There was no confirmation of precisely how many people were at the building at the time of the collapse, though earlier officials said 30 people were feared trapped.
Around 50 workers would normally have been on the site at the time, Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said.
The building belonged to a Chinese national who rented the land from a Cambodian owner. The construction firm and contractor were both Chinese-owned as well.
Sihanoukville was once a sleepy fishing community before being claimed first by Western backpackers, and then wealthy Russians.
It has been flooded by Chinese investment in recent years, spurring a construction boom in a resort town known for its casinos which pull in mainland tourists.
There are around 50 Chinese-owned casinos and dozens of hotel complexes under construction.
Between 2016 and 2018, $1 billion was invested by Chinese government and private businesses in the Preah Sihanouk province, according to official statistics.
Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, has notoriously lax safety laws and labor protections. Accidents are common at building sites.
 


Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

Updated 13 October 2019

Britain’s Johnson plays down Brexit breakthrough hopes

  • EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes Sunday of a breakthrough in his last-ditch bid to strike an amicable divorce deal with the European Union.
Negotiators went behind closed doors for intensive talks in Brussels after Johnson outlined a new set of proposals to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.
They have very little time left to succeed.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away.
The 27 would ideally like to have a full proposal to vote on by then.
But the sides are trying to achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the European Union after nearly 50 years.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier called the weekend negotiations “constructive” enough to keep going for another day.
“A lot of work remains to be done,” Barnier stressed in a statement to EU ambassadors.
“Discussions at technical level will continue (Monday).”
Downing Street said Johnson also told his cabinet to brace for a cliff-hanger finish.
He reiterated “that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on October 31,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Johnson rose to power in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year — even for a few weeks.
Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.
Johnson is under parliamentary orders to seek a extension until January 31 of next year if no deal emerges by Saturday.
He has promised to both follow the law and get Britain out by October 31 — a contradiction that might end up being settled in court.
Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more difficult to decipher than the riddle of an “Egyptian sphinx.”
“If the British ask for more time, which they probably will not, it would in my view be a historical nonsense to refuse them,” Juncker told Austria’s Kurier newspaper.
Ireland’s Varadkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the talks running on up to the October 31 deadline if a deal seemed within reach.
The few details that have leaked out suggest a compromise around the contentious Irish border issue Britain’s Northern Ireland partially aligned with EU customs rules.
Whether such a fudge suits both Brussels and the more ardent Brexit backers in parliament who must still approve a deal should become clearer by the end of the week.
Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the UK parliament — something it has failed to do three times.
Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full backing of not only his own fractured Conservatives but also Northern Ireland’s small Democratic Unionist Party.
DUP’s parliamentary leader Nigel Dodds warned Johnson that “Northern Ireland must remain entirely in the customs union of the United Kingdom” and not the EU.
“And Boris Johnson knows it very well,” Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.
The comments do not necessarily rule out DUP support.
UK media are presenting Johnson’s mooted compromise as a “double customs” plan that could be interpreted to mean that Northern Ireland is leaving EU rules.
Yet details are still under discussion and the prime minister’s allies are urging lawmakers to give the British leader a chance.
Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn signalled Sunday that he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to force an early election.
But he added that there was “a strong possibility” that those polls would come before the Christmas break.