Store fire damage 'tops Bt500m'
One person missing, disaster zone declared in Phuket's worst-ever blaze
Phuket has been declared a disaster zone, following the Wednesday night fire that engulfed the town's main SuperCheap store. It consumed 99 per cent of the shopping centre's four buildings and damaged at least two nearby shops and three cars.
There has been no report of death or injury so far, but one employee is said to be missing and damage is estimated at over Bt500 million, making it Phuket's worst-ever fire.
Tambon Rassada municipality has prepared a Bt5-million emergency fund to initially support the victims. So far 20 nearby residents have registered for aid.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, but police initially suspected a short circuit and have interviewed over 100 eyewitnesses.
Phuket disaster prevention and mitigation chief Sant Chantarawong called the blaze Phuket's worst and said it broke out at around 9pm on Wednesday.
All 40 fire units on the island province were called in to fight the fire at the store on Thepkrasattri Road, and black smoke could be seen a kilometre away.
The fire was brought under control at 2am but the area remained sealed off as the blaze was not totally extinguished and needed occasional water spraying.
Police investigators were inspecting the scene, said Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusut.
Maitree said the seat of the fire was located in the middle of the store area among many inflammable goods, making it difficult for fire units to reach it.
The mall had 3,500 workers - 2,736 of whom were Thai and some 700 others from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Labour permanent secretary and acting Social Security Office chief Jeerasak Sukonthachart said.
He instructed officials to assist Thai and foreign workers laid off from the burned-out building.
Injured workers were also to receive aid according to the SSO benefit package.