Bangkok blast: Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes narrowly escapes due to last-minute route change

SYDNEY (AFP/THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes revealed on Tuesday he narrowly escaped a bomb that exploded outside a religious shrine in Bangkok, with a last-minute change of route likely saving his life.

Barnes, who as lead singer of Cold Chisel belts out songs such as "Working Class Man" and "Khe Sanh", was in the Thai capital with his Thai-Australian wife and other family members, including his daughter and grandson.

They initially planned to walk past the streetside Erawan Shrine to a dinner venue but instead decided to use an overhead walkway as it would be easier with the pram they were pushing.

The bomb exploded on Monday barely 50m away as they were on the walkway, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than 120 others in an attack the authorities said targeted foreigners.

"I had the pram with the grandson... walking past the shrine would have been very difficult because it's a bumpy road. So I said to the kids 'follow me, I'll take you this other way'," Barnes told the Australian Associated Press.

"We were literally walking between two buildings on the walkway when the bomb went off. It was just frightening."

The Cold Chisel frontman, one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time, added that: "I knew it was a bomb straight away."

Mr Alan Parkhouse, a friend of Barnes, told the Sydney Morning Herald he was walking with the group when they made the decision to use the overhead pass instead of walking past the crowded religious shrine - "a decision that probably saved our lives".

He said Barnes was talking about the forthcoming Australian tour of his band Cold Chisel on the walkway when the bomb went off.

"We had just walked right above the spot where the bomb had gone off and were about 50 metres away when the blast shook the walkway."

They knew it had to be a bomb and ran into the hotel. Barnes and the men in the group left the women and children in the foyer and went back.

"We were a safe distance away by now, but could see flames shooting up near the middle of the intersection we'd just walked over," Mr Parkhouse said.

Australian tourist John Murray told Sky News he was on the walkway overlooking the shrine and felt the full force of the explosion.

"It was like a shockwave though our bodies. I've never actually experienced anything so powerful like that ever," Mr Murray said.

"Our ears were ringing, we hit the floor and there was shrapnel everywhere, smoke and people screaming."

Barnes is now trying to organise flights so his family can return to Australia as soon as possible.

"I was coming back to put out this record so it all sort of pales into insignificance really. I just want to get my family home in one piece," he said.

No Australians have so far been either confirmed dead or injured.