BANGKOK (AFP, REUTERS, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered an investigation into a massive blaze that tore through a nightclub, killing at least 14 people.
Video footage posted by the rescue service showed desperate revellers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes ablaze, as a huge fire raged in the background.
The Sawang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Foundation said 14 people were killed and around 40 injured.
The service said the blaze was accelerated by flammable acoustic foam on the walls of the single-storey club.
It took firefighters more than three hours to bring it under control. More than 20 fire engines were dispatched to the scene.
The dead – four women and 10 men – were found mostly crowded by the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies severely burnt, the service said.
All the victims are believed to be Thai.
“There is no death related to foreigners,” police lieutenant-colonel Boonsong Yingyong of the Phlu Ta Luang police station, which oversees the area where the blaze occurred, told AFP by phone.
Witnesses reportedly said they heard two loud explosions before they spotted flames covering the club's roof. The fire then quickly spread.
Local TV footage showed people fleeing the fire and emergency workers putting out flames and looking through the burnt-out premises, with shoes and bottles strewn across the ground.
A witness who went by the name Nana told local TV that she was with five friends when the fire broke out at the venue.
“I saw flames above the stage, on the right side. I think it was about the same time at the singer on stage saw it too and he shouted ‘fire!’ and threw the mic at it,” she told broadcaster PPTV.
“I saw a lot of the pub’s bouncers covered in fire inside," she said.
The burnt building is now cordoned off as officials fear it may collapse. Investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.
The club opened just a month ago and quickly became popular among young people in Sattahip.
Prime Minister Prayut on Friday offered condolences to the victims' families and said he had ordered a probe into the fire.
He assured families of the victims that they would receive help from the authorities.
Mr Prayut also urged entertainment venues nationwide to ensure they have proper emergency exits and safety measures in place.
The incident comes 13 years after pyrotechnics started a blaze at a New Year’s party at the crowded Santika night club in Bangkok, killing 66 people and injuring more than 200.
Investigations into that fire found several key breaches at the swanky club, official corruption and revealed lax attitudes towards safety at entertainment venues at the time.
More recently, four people were killed in a fire caused by an electrical fault at a club on the holiday island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists, in 2012.