Cambodia’s Fatal Building Collapse Survivors Relive Hours Before Rescue

Enveloped in total darkness, breathing air tainted by the smell of rotting bodies, their hopes faded under the rubble of a building erected without proper permits amid a building boom fueled by Chinese money.

Not too long ago, Un Neng dropped out of seventh grade in Kratie Province to join her parents working at a construction site in Sihanoukville, a sleepy coastal city now undergoing a casino building boom fueled by Chinese investors and encouraged by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Most of the time, Un Neng, 16, carried baskets filled with lime mortar to the skilled workers at a condominium under construction. Up, up, up she went, past the third floor, past the fifth floor, and on to the top floor, the seventh.

For Un Neng and her parents, it was a work-for-home opportunity because in Preah Sihanouk Province the white-hot real estate market makes it impossible for workers to live anywhere outside the shells of buildings they’re hired to construct.

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