Death toll from building collapse in Cambodia rises to 24

Rescuers on Monday were continuing to search the rubble of a building that collapsed while under construction in a Cambodia beach town, killing at least 24 workers as they slept in the unfinished condominium that was doubling as their housing.

The seven-story building collapsed early Saturday on top of the dozens of construction workers who slept each night on the second floor. The condominium was being built in the thriving seaside resort town of Sihanoukville, which has several such Chinese-funded projects.

The Chinese Embassy expressed its condolences and said it was mobilizing Chinese assistance for the rescue.

Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities said rescuers digging through the twisted metal and concrete rubble found five bodies overnight, raising the toll to 24. Up to 75% of the debris has been removed from the site as of Monday morning.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the site late Sunday. Pictures released by the provincial authorities showed him in front of the collapsed building talking to several government ministers involved in the rescue.

At least 24 workers were injured in the collapse. One of them, Nhor Chandeun, said he and his wife were sleeping when they heard a loud noise and felt the building vibrate then begin falling down. They were trapped for 12 hours before rescuers found them.

The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training said 30 workers were at the site when the building collapsed, but Nhor Chandeun said there were about 55 to 60 people inside the building.

Provincial authorities said in a statement that four Chinese nationals involved in the construction have been detained while the collapse is investigated.

The Chinese Embassy "supports a thorough investigation of the accident and necessary measures by competent Cambodian authority in accordance with the law," the embassy said in a statement early Monday.

It said the embassy was greatly saddened by the collapse and had reached out to Chinese enterprises in Cambodia to mobilize personnel as well as heavy equipment like excavators to clear the rubble.