Cambodia PM to oversee rescue operation at building collapse

Rescuers try to remove the rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rescuers try to remove the rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A rescuer shows a smart phone found from the rubble at the site of a collapsed building and possibly belonging to one of the victims, in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rescuers try to remove the rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rescuers try to remove the rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Victims from the site of a collapsed building are treated at a hospital in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Saturday, June 22, 2019. A seven-story building under construction collapsed in Cambodia's coastal city of Sihanoukville early Saturday, killing seven workers and injuring 21, authorities said. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A car damaged by a building collapse sits near the site in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rescuers try to remove the rubble at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Rescuers gather at the site of a collapsed building in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Sunday, June 23, 2019. Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble of the collapsed seven-story building. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sunday that he was heading to the seaside resort town where a seven-story building under construction collapsed, killing at least 19 workers and injuring 24.

Hun Sen said he would oversee the rescue operation at the site in Sihanoukville, where the building collapsed early Saturday on top of dozens of workers sleeping inside. Rescuers have been digging through the twisted metal and concrete rubble in search of anyone buried, with the latest body pulled out Sunday night.

Provincial authorities said as of Sunday afternoon, half of the debris at the site had been cleared. Authorities, meanwhile, have questioned four Chinese who were involved with the project.

Construction workers said the unfinished building doubled as their housing, with the crew spending nights on the second floor. Nhor Chandeun and his wife were asleep when at around 4 a.m. Saturday they heard a loud noise and the building crumbled on top of them.

"All the workers were asleep," the 31-year-old said from a hospital in the city. "A moment before the building collapsed it was vibrating and then it was falling down. But it was too quick to escape."

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

Yun Min, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said the building was owned by a Chinese investor who leased land for a condominium — one of many Chinese projects in the thriving beach resort. Provincial authorities said in a statement that four Chinese nationals involved in the construction have been detained while an investigation into the collapse is carried out.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collapse.

Nhor Chandeun and his wife were trapped for 12 hours before rescuers found them.

"My wife and I kept calling for help," he said. "We were shouting and shouting but there was no sound replying to us and we presumed that we would die under the rubble."

"Fortunately the rescuers found me in time," he added.

In Bangkok, Southeast Asian leaders expressed their condolences to Cambodia, whose leader was among heads of state attending the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Thai capital. The 10-nation regional bloc announced a new project for the region to respond better to disasters and emergencies.

___

Sopheng Cheang reported from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Associated Press writer Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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