Officials fear that dozens of tourists are dead after a massive fire devastated a casino complex in Cambodia, with reports of people jumping out of windows to escape the blaze.
The fire at the Grand Diamond City Hotel and Casino in Poipet, a city that borders Thailand, began in a restaurant on a lower floor at about midnight on Thursday. Heavy winds caused the flames to quickly climb up the 15-story building.
It took firefighters about 14 hours to contain the flames, by which point the building was wrecked.
Local officials have confirmed that at least 16 people have died, with 50 others injured, and at least 58 unaccounted for. It was unclear how many additional guests might have been trapped in their rooms. At least 25 people were transported to Thailand for medical treatment.
“Right now, we are trying to bring the dead bodies from the building down,” Montri Khaosa-ard, who works for a Thai disaster rescue organization, told CNN. “I don’t think there will be any survivors because of very thick smoke.”
Many of the people who were trapped by the flames reportedly climbed up to the roof in the hopes that they might be rescued by crane. Rescue workers said some had jumped, resulting in injuries and deaths.
“Two people died immediately when they hit the ground and around four to five (others) broke their legs,” Peerapan Srisakorn, from the Aranyaprathet Rescue Foundation, told CNN.
“It was very windy last night,” he added. “The fire spread up quickly to the upper floors and then to every side, engulfing the whole building.”
One Third of the Entire Country’s Homeless Population Lives in This State
The staggering issue of homelessness looms large over California, with the state hosting nearly a third of the nation’s rising homeless population, which stands at 582,462 people according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In the bustling city of San Francisco, Anthony, a former restaurant worker who has lived in a tent for three years, is just one of over 170,000 unhoused Californians.
The city’s inflated living cost, with average rent for a one-bedroom apartment being roughly $3,000 a month, starkly contrasts with its minimum wage of $18.07 an hour, leaving many like Nelly Sorto, a full-time cleaner and a mother of two, struggling to break into the rental market.
Anthony, a former chef, has experienced the vicious cycle of homelessness firsthand, stating, “Once you get behind, you just can’t get up,” to ABC News.
The economic downturn during the pandemic left many like him, striving to find a permanent home and bouncing from street to street as city officials clear their encampments.
This visible homelessness crisis is often attributed to several factors, including the high cost of living related to the tech boom and mental health issues experienced by many individuals.
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said to ABC News, “California has systemic issues in terms of its housing affordability… So, what we need to do in California is really have a massive investment to offset that difference between incomes and rent.”
The rising number of encampments has sparked frustration across the state, with residents like Jeanne Vasquez expressing concern over safety and the declining quality of life in their areas.
In July, Vasquez conveyed her discontent to ABC Los Angeles, citing instances of broken glass, needles on the ground, and inappropriate behaviors exhibited by individuals dealing with mental illnesses.
To combat this escalating issue, President Joe Biden announced an investment of an extra $3 billion focusing on support services including rental assistance, legal help, and job search support, with a particular emphasis on veterans.
However, GOP presidential hopefuls like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump have utilized the grim reality of the homelessness crisis in blue states to critique Democratic leadership.
Trump has been vocal about his stance on “urban camping,” promising to ban it and offering rehabilitation options for violators, as mentioned in one of his campaign ads.
However, Friedenbach argues that such policies essentially criminalize the homeless and advocates for a more comprehensive approach involving the federal government investing in housing vouchers, long-term housing subsidies, and reforms in mental health and substance use treatment systems.
She believes that this crisis is a “manufactured issue” created by a “lack of investment” and calls for active listening from the federal government to truly understand and address the needs of the unhoused people.
Despite the relentless efforts of San Francisco outreach teams, many unhoused individuals either decline offers of shelter or already have shelter but cannot be compelled to come inside, as per a spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
While some, like Anthony, have been offered a place to stay, the glaring reality remains that thousands are still on the streets yearning for a place to call home, with at least 350 unhoused individuals still on the waitlist for housing in San Francisco.
The pervasive crisis necessitates immediate, profound measures and substantial investments to bridge the substantial gap between incomes and rent, and to address the systemic issues contributing to the surge in homelessness.
Target Shutting Down Stores in Four States Amid Surging Theft and Crime
Target Corp. has announced it will close nine stores across New York City, Seattle, Portland, and the San Francisco Bay area due to persistent theft and safety threats. The decision came after the retailer deemed the theft-preventive measures, including the deployment of more security and merchandise lockdowns, ineffective.
“We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” Target declared. The company has been vocal about the surge in organized retail crime, affecting its bottom line significantly.
Target CEO Brian Cornell revealed that the stores experienced a 120% increase in theft involving violence or threats of violence early this year.
“Our team continues to face an unacceptable amount of retail theft and organized retail crime…Shrink in the second quarter remained consistent with our expectations but well above the sustainable level where we expect to operate over time,” Cornell stated.
The company promised to provide most of the affected employees with opportunities to work at other locations, recognizing the essential role their stores play in the communities they serve.
“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all,” the company emphasized.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) reported a rise in the average shrink rate to 1.6% this fiscal year, leading to industry losses of $112.1 billion, primarily due to theft. The intensified retail crime prompted over 45% of retailers to cut store hours and nearly 30% to alter store selections.
Cities like San Francisco and Portland have witnessed other retailers retracting their presence due to crime and changing downtown shopping trends. Stores like Whole Foods, Old Navy, and Nordstrom closed locations, citing concerns over employee safety and the prevalence of crime.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed his discontent over Target’s decision, stating, “It is disheartening to learn that Target has made the decision to close stores here in Portland and in other major cities nationwide.”
He assured ongoing efforts to enhance public safety and combat retail theft in the area.
The impact of store closures is expected to be more pronounced in communities that rely on Target for essential goods and services.
Carlos Castelán, managing director of the Navio Group, remarked, “At the end of the day, safety is paramount,” acknowledging the grave implications of retail crime on customer and employee experiences and retailer costs.
While Target plans to open about 20 locations nationwide, the closures signal the broader implications of escalating retail crime on consumer access to essential retailers in various regions.
The intense scenario has left many wondering about the effectiveness of the additional security measures and local engagements in addressing the challenges posed by organized retail crimes.
The closing stores:
- 517 E. 117th St., New York, N.Y.
- 4535 University Way N.E., Seattle, Wash.
- 1448 N.W. Market St., Seattle, Wash.
- 1690 Folsom St., San Francisco, Calif.
- 2650 Broadway, Oakland, Calif.
- 4301 Century Blvd., Pittsburg, Calif.
- 939 S.W. Morrison St., Portland, Ore.
- 3031 S.E. Powell Blvd., Portland, Ore.
- 4030 N.E. Halsey St., Portland, Ore.
The Streets Aren’t Safe: Repeat Offender’s Grisly Crime Stuns Baltimore
Authorities have detained Jason Dean Billingsley, 32, a resident of Baltimore, as the prime suspect in the chilling murder of Pava LaPere, a noted CEO and founder of EcoMap Technologies.
Billingsley was arrested on Wednesday at around 11 p.m. ET, in connection with the murder of LaPere. LaPere’s body was discovered on the roof of her Mount Vernon apartment on Monday at around 11:30 a.m. However, authorities believe that she was actually killed the prior Friday.
LaPere, a distinguished name featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for social impact in 2023, suffered a brutal fate, allegedly at the hands of Billingsley, a man previously arrested for various crimes.
Outlets such as CNN, ABC News, and NBC News reported, citing court documents, that LaPere faced strangulation and blunt force trauma, causing her demise. The crime scene yielded several critical pieces of evidence, including a brick and several teeth.
This gruesome murder wasn’t the only crime linked to Billingsley that week. The Baltimore Police released a statement that he is also a suspect in an incident involving attempted murder, arson, and rape, occurring in the Baltimore area on Sept. 19, 2023.
This incident, merely a mile away from where LaPere was found, had Billingsley disguising himself as a maintenance man before committing the alleged heinous acts, according to documents obtained by local news outlet WJZ.
The Baltimore Police emphasized the severity of the crimes and the premeditated nature of the acts.
“All indications are that this was not a random act of violence,” stated Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley.
He went on to add, “We have information to believe that the victims from Edmondson Avenue were targeted by the suspect—that the suspect knew the victims and he went into that location for a criminal reason.”
Furthermore, he divulged, “we know that the suspect did not break into the building as he worked at that location.”
Details unveiled by WJZ expose the terror unleashed by Billingsley on Sept. 19. A woman, reportedly raped and her neck cut, and her boyfriend were set on fire.
A neighbor, recollecting the horror, said, “I heard her screaming and banging on the grate help her get out, help her. I screamed through the building to see if there was anyone who could help me help her.”
Also discovered was a 5-year-old in the building, who was promptly taken to the hospital.
Billingsley, facing first-degree murder and other charges relating to LaPere’s death, has been in the grip of the law before, with arrests in 2009, 2011, and 2013, for crimes including a sex offense, 2nd-degree assault charges, and robbery. The police have conveyed their uncertainty about whether LaPere and Billingsley were acquainted.
Commissioner Worley, addressing the ramifications of the arrest, noted, “I know this arrest does not bring back Pava LaPere.”
He expressed hopes that the arrest might, “at least we can give a sense of closure to the city of Baltimore, the victims of all his crimes and all their families.”
As the investigations continue to unravel the depth of Billingsley’s alleged crimes, the police remain vigilant, reviewing all open cases since October 2022 to discern any possible connections.
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