Close to 60 killed in New Year's nightclub blaze

At least 58 people were killed when a fire raged through a Bangkok nightclub as people were celebrating the New Year, a local official said. The blaze began at the Santika club in the city's Ekkamai district.


AFP - A fierce fire tore through an upscale Bangkok nightclub early Thursday as revellers celebrated New Year, killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 200 including foreigners, rescuers said.

The blaze broke out after a pyrotechnic display at the Santika club in the Thai capital's Ekkamai district, a thronging entertainment area frequented by locals and tourists.

It was not clear if any foreigners were among the dead.

The two-storey club was gutted by the fire, with the front of the building blackened and partially collapsed, an AFP correspondent said from the scene.

Around 30 charred bodies were still inside the structure hours after the inferno.

"It appears that the fire started from the area of the stage where a band was playing. There were some pyrotechnics and it appears that they started the blaze," Police Lieutenant Colonel Prawit Kantwol told AFP.

"Most of the victims died from suffocation, but some were also killed in a stampede when people were trying to get out," he said.

Almost all the dead were on the ground floor, where the stage was located.

Police Colonel Sutin Sapmuang of the local police station said 58 people were so far confirmed killed in the blaze.

"The cause of the fire is still under investigation," he told AFP.

A Bangkok emergency services headquarters official said 207 people had been hurt, adding: "There are some foreigners injured from the blaze."

Japan's Kyodo news agency, citing the Japanese embassy, said four Japanese nationals were injured, one seriously, while the Singaporean foreign ministry reported two of its citizens injured.

The wounded were rushed to 14 hospitals around the capital suffering burns and smoke inhalation.

The club, popular with Bangkok's elite, has a capacity of 1,000 people but it was not clear how many were in there at the time of the blaze.

Fire brigade officials said the death toll was high because there were few exits from the building and because windows on the upper floors had iron bars across them.

"There was only one main way to get out from the front. People who worked there were able to escape from the back because they knew the exits, but the others had no chance," senior fireman Wacharatpong Sri-Saard said.

Some victims were trapped in the basement of the club, which was accessible via a narrow stairwell, he said. The roof of the building had also collapsed during the blaze.

Police said the fire broke out between midnight and 1:00am, shortly after revellers had celebrated the coming of the New Year.

Several dozen relatives, friends and bystanders remained outside what was left of the venue, desperately trying to get information about loved ones from the emergency services.

Fire brigade officials and forensic police could be seen entering the club in an effort to establish exactly what had caused the fire, as the remains of charred furniture and equipment littered the ground outside.

A billboard advertising the club's New Year party, with the logo "Goodbye Santika" and the names of DJs playing at the event, was still on show on the street outside hours after the blaze.

The fire was the latest in a series of deadly blazes at nightclubs around the world in recent years.

In 2003 a pyrotechnics display during a concert at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island in the United States set off a blaze that killed 100 people.

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