The issues of closing times and the condition of fire exits at night-entertainment venues have returned to the media spotlight after another deadly blaze - this one at a Phuket pub early yesterday that left four people dead and 11 others injured.
Media reports speculated that the Tiger Discotheque was open beyond the legally required closing time of 2am when the fire broke out. However, Thamrongrak Bunrak, a lawyer representing Tiger Group Phuket Co Ltd, which runs the venue, said the pub had closed at the normal time but customers were prevented from leaving by heavy rain.
He said the cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit, after a nearby transformer exploded twice.
“It was an accident. The explosions later caused a power line connected to the Tiger Discotheque building to catch fire, which spread to the building,” he said. He added that the front door was the only way out for the patrons because both fire exits by the main stage caught fire.
A senior provincial official, Chaiwat Thayphee, said after visiting the site that an inspection of the building by the local Public Works Office was underway.
“But based on my observation, the building was damaged heavily by the fire, especially on the second floor, which should be rebuilt to assure the safety and confidence [of the public],” he said.
The lawyer’s claim was consistent with an earlier notification received by Kathoo police, at around 3.20am, that a transformer located near the Tiger Discotheque exploded, causing fires that later spread to the building.
Quoting witnesses, police said there were up to 200 patrons inside the venue sheltering from heavy rain. The two explosions initially caused a blackout, while the flames spread from the power lines to the pub, police said. “The clients scurried to find ways out, with some of them jumping for their lives from the second floor,” a police official said, citing accounts by
Thamrongrak said the company would be responsible for deaths and injuries, but did not specify how. He estimated the damage at around Bt100 million.
A local police investigator, Pol Lt-Colonel Kittisak Noophueng, said the bodies of the four fatalities were burned beyond recognition so it could not be immediately determined whether they were Thai or foreigners. He said more details would be known as friends or relatives of missing persons came forward and assisted with DNA identification.
Nine people, mostly suffering bruises and breathing problems, were discharged from a hospital, while two remained hospitalised: male French national Baygmin Tdanotk, who reportedly suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body, and female Thai national Noodaeng Prangbangkhana, whose condition was not immediately known.
Rescue workers said later that the bodies were found in the centre of the building. Some workers speculated that the four who died might have been drunk.
A survivor, Kanyarat Khanthong, 25, said electrical sparks set fire to decorative items made of foam, sending the clients scurrying for the front door.
She did not mention the two fire exits or their condition.
A number of survivors told reporters that a few clients responded to initial shouted warnings of fire, with most not attempting to escape until the fire had begun to spread.