14 killed in Thailand nightclub fire, PM orders investigation

Thailand’s prime minister on Friday ordered an investigation into a massive fire that destroyed a nightclub and killed at least 14 people.

The fire broke out around 1:00 a.m. (1800 GMT Thursday) at the Mountain Bee nightclub in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Bangkok.

Video footage released by the rescue service showed the desperate revelers fleeing the club screaming with their clothes on fire as a massive fire raged in the background.

Shalit Chutisupakarn, who survived with burns to his arms and torso, described scenes of panic and desperation as people struggled to get out of the building.

I couldn’t see anything, it was all dark. Everyone was shouting ‘Get out! Get out!’ “We all had to try to get out,” he told reporters.

“I just pushed and pressed. There were people on fire all over their bodies.”

The Sawang Roganathamastan Rescue Foundation said 14 people were killed and about 40 injured.

The service said the fire was accelerated by flammable acoustic foam on the club’s walls, and it took more than three hours for firefighters to control it.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said he had ordered an investigation into the fire.

The service said the dead – 4 women and 10 men – were found crammed mostly at the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies badly burned.

They were between the ages of 17 and 49 and all believed to be Thai.

“There are no deaths related to foreigners,” Police Lt. Col. Bunsong Yingyeong of Flo Ta Luang Police Station, who oversees the area where the fire broke out, told AFP by phone.

– Charred wreckage –

His mother told local media that one of the victims was the singer of the band that plays in the club.

“I don’t know what to say. The death came suddenly,” Premjay Sai Ong told reporters.

She said a musician friend who managed to escape told her that the fire broke out in front of the band and spread quickly.

Pictures of the fallout showed how the flames inside the club were reduced to blackened debris, with the charred metal structures of furniture scattered among the ashes.

Police are investigating whether building fires are in the one-story building and engineers are examining the building amid fears it may collapse.

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters it appeared that Mountain Bay was operating “without permission” to function as an entertainment venue.

Sompong Chengduang, an assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, said the owner was under investigation for apparently changing the venue from a restaurant to a nightclub without permission.

Concerns have long been raised about Thailand’s lax approach to health and safety regulations, particularly in the countless bars and nightclubs.

A massive inferno erupted at a New Year’s Eve party at the luxurious Santika Club in Bangkok in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.

Santika’s owner was jailed for three years over the fire, which started when fireworks went off while a rock band called Burn played on stage.

More recently, four people were killed in a fire caused by an electrical failure at a club on the tourist island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists, in 2012.

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