Music pub fire kills at least 14 in Thailand, including band singer

Thailand’s prime minister on Friday ordered an investigation into a massive fire that swept through a crowded music bar and killed at least 14 people, including a singer who was performing when the fire broke out near the stage.

The fire started around 1 a.m. at the Mountain B nightspot in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 90 miles southeast of Bangkok.

Video footage released by a rescue service showed desperate revelers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes on fire, as a large fire burned in the background.

Pub fire in Thailand
Extensive fire damage litters the interior of the Mountain B pub in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 100 miles southeast of Bangkok, Thailand.

Anuthep Cheysakron/AP

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 couldn’t see anything, everything was dark. Everyone was yelling ‘Get out! 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 Foundation said 14 people were killed and about 40 others injured.

A waitress at the venue, Thanyapat Sornsuwanhiran, told Thai television reporters that she saw smoke near the stage.

“I yelled ‘fire’ at customers, and I was near the doors, so I directed them outside. I kept yelling ‘fire, fire’ and the security guards were also helping to get people out,” he said.

The service said the fire was accelerated by flammable 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 his 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 huddled in the doorway and in the bathroom, their bodies severely burned, the service said.

They were between 17 and 49 years old and all are believed to be Thai.

“There are no foreign-related deaths,” police Lt. Col. Boonsong Yingyong of the Phlu Ta Luang police station, who oversees the area where the fire broke out, told AFP by telephone.

One of the victims was the singer of the band that played at the club, his mother told local media.

“I don’t know what to say. Death came suddenly,” Premjai Sae-Oung told reporters.

She said a musician friend who managed to escape told her the fire broke out in front of the band and spread quickly.

“The fire started in the upper right corner of the stage,” a witness identified only as Nana told PPTV. “The singer must have seen it too, so he yelled ‘fire’ and threw the microphone away.”

Footage from the aftermath showed how the fire had turned the interior of the club into a blackened ruin, with the charred metal frames of furniture scattered among the ash.

Police are investigating whether there were fire escapes in the one-story building and engineers are inspecting the structure for fear it could collapse.

Home Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters it appeared that Mountain B was operating “without permission” to function as an entertainment venue.

Sompong Chingduang, assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, said the owner was 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, particularly in its myriad bars and nightclubs.

A massive inferno broke out at a New Year’s Eve party at Bangkok’s posh Santika club in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.

Santika’s owner was jailed for three years for the fire, which started when fireworks were set off while a rock band called Burn was playing on stage.

In 2016, a night fire in a Christian primary school dormitory in northern Thailand killed at least 17 girls.

More recently, four people died in a fire sparked by an electrical fault at a club on the resort island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists, in 2012.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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