Friday, January 2, 2009

Bangkok nightclub fire-Santika Club

Warning! This is graphic.

Firefighters recall pub nightmare with sadness

Published: 3/01/2009 at 12:00 AM

The New Year fire tragedy at the Santika Club haunts firefighters and rescuers who braved one of the most horrific missions of their careers.

Kriengkrai Makkhao, a firefighter from a Klong Toey fire station, arrived at the burning pub on Ekamai road minutes after the blaze broke out. He worked alongside about 100 other firemen from nearby fire stations to douse the blaze.

"As we arrived at the scene, almost 80 per cent of the building was already on fire," he said.

"We doused the flames in front of us, moving inch by inch as we attempted to enter the building to search for victims," the fireman said.

Mr Kriengkrai said he saw a few discarded fire extinguishers on the ground, but the devices were apparently unable to stop the fire.

Ueamporn Nala-on of Kalasin is searching for her daughter. - Apichit Jinakul, Bangkok Post

He saw no sprinkler system installed in the building.

Survivors told him that somebody tried to put out the flames with the fire extinguishers but to no avail.

They also said they heard neither a fire alarm nor instructions on how to escape after the fire broke out.

The whole building burned down within 10 minutes, Mr Kriengkrai said, adding that strong winds and flammable materials inside the pub might have helped the fire spread rapidly.

The fire brigade says that under such circumstances, people should remain calm.

"Those who get caught in a fire should try to find a wet cloth to cover the face. Stay close to the ground to avoid the smoke and move along the wall as it will lead to fire exits," said Mr Kriengkrai.

A volunteer team from the Ruamkatanyu Foundation also tackled the blaze. Anyawut Pho-umpai saw New Year revellers trapped inside the burning building, waving their hands and crying for help.

The horrifying image is still vivid in his mind.

Mr Anyawut arrived at the pub about 10 minutes after the fire broke out.

"The revellers were in bad shape," he said.

Mr Anyawut said he and his team pulled about 30 people out of the pub, but many died on the way to hospital.

An hour later, with the blaze now under control, rescuers entered the building to look for survivors.

That was when he stumbled on a pile of bodies near the basement door.

"Women's high-heeled shoes were scattered all over the floor."

Mr Anyawut said that just before fire broke out at Santika, rescue teams were sighing with relief as countdown parties elsewhere in Bangkok went off without any reports of violence or accidents.In 2006, bomb blasts at nine spots killed three people and injured dozens of New Year revellers.

His team was stationed in the Ratchaprasong area, where the city's main countdown party was held. Tens of thousands of people saw in the New Year there without incident.

But shortly after the countdown ended, his team was told to move to the Santika pub, where they encountered a very different scene.

A night of happiness had turned into a night of horror, he said.

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