Fourteen people were killed and dozens badly injured when a fire broke out early on Friday at a crowded music pub in eastern Thailand, police and rescue workers said.
At least a dozen survivors were in critical condition.
Videos on social media showed thick black smoke and then flames pouring from the front entrance as people attempted to flee, some with their clothing on fire. Police said the fire was reported around 12.45am local time.
The Mountain B pub in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 100 miles south-east of Bangkok, was lined with flammable soundproofing, and it took two hours for firefighters to put out the blaze, Manop Theprith of a private emergency rescue service group told Thailand’s PPTV television news. His group said 40 people had been injured.
Several witnesses described seeing smoke and fire on the ceiling near the stage, followed by explosions.
Thirteen people died at the scene and another person with burns over 90% of his body died later, police, rescuers and Queen Sirikit Naval Hospital said.
“All the patients are considered to be in critical condition,” said Capt Anucha Likitvong, chief of the hospital’s medical team.
“In a medical sense, the situation for patients suffering from this degree of burns can change sharply in the next 48 hours.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, provincial police chief Maj Gen Atthasit Kijjahan told PPTV. He said the pub’s owner and staff were giving statements to police and investigators were collecting evidence.
“The fire started at the top right corner of the stage,” a witness identified only as Nana told PPTV. “The singer must have seen it too, so he shouted ‘fire’ and threw away the microphone.”
“I am quite shocked. But I am lucky that when I saw the fire, I could get myself together and get out of there,” she said, adding that she saw several pub security guards with their clothing on fire.
A waitress, Thanyapat Sornsuwanhiran, told Thai television reporters that she also saw smoke near the stage.
“I shouted ‘fire’ to customers, and I was near the doors, so I directed them out. I kept shouting ‘fire, fire’ and the security guards were also helping lead people out,” she said.
A DJ at the pub who did not identify himself told PPTV that the fire had spread quickly, in about a minute, when he heard the sound of an explosion, shattering windows.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha urged that business operators and officials ensure that safety measures are in place for entertainment venues nationwide, especially in areas with large numbers of tourists arriving after measures to control the coronavirus were eased.