Thailand’s prime minister on Friday ordered an investigation into the massive fire that caused night clubat least 14 people died.
The fire broke out around 1:00 am (18:00 GMT on Thursday) at the Mountain B nightclub in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 150 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.
A video released by the rescue service shows desperate revelers screaming as they flee the club in burning clothes, with a huge fire raging in the background.
Chalit Chotisupakarn, who escaped with burns to his arms and torso, described scenes of panic and despair as people struggled to get out of the building.
“I didn’t see anything, everything was dark. Everyone shouted: “Go away! Get out!’ We all had to try to get out,” he told reporters.
“I just pushed and pushed. There were people with fire all over their bodies.”
The Sawang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Fund said 14 people were killed and around 40 were injured.
The service said the blaze was accelerated by combustible acoustic foam on the club’s walls, and it took firefighters more than three hours to bring it under control.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha offered condolences to the families of the victims and said he had ordered an investigation into the fire.
The dead – four women and 10 men – were found mostly crowded at the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies badly burned, the service said.
They were between 17 and 49 years old and are believed to have all been Thai.
“There are no foreign-related deaths,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Bunsong Yingyeon of Plu Ta Luang Police Station, who oversees the area where the fire broke out, told AFP by phone.
– Charred debris –
One of the victims was the lead singer of a band that performed at the club, his mother told local media.
“I don’t know what to say. Death came suddenly,” Premjay Sae-Ung 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.
Aftermath images showed how the fire reduced the interior of the club to blackened rubble, with charred metal frames of furniture scattered among the ash.
Police are investigating if the one-story building had fire escapes, and engineers are examining the structure for fear it could collapse.
Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters that Mountain B appeared to be operating “without permission” as an entertainment venue.
Sompong Chingduang, Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, said the owner is 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, especially in its myriad bars and nightclubs.
In 2009, a huge hell broke out at a New Year’s Eve party at Bangkok’s posh Santika club, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.
The owner of Santika was jailed for three years for a fire that started when fireworks were set off while rock band Burn was playing on stage.
More recently, in 2012, four people were killed in a fire caused by a faulty electrical wiring at a club on the resort island of Phuket, which attracts foreign tourists.