An Australian has told of seeing “people running on fire” after a blaze broke out in a Thailand disco, killing four people believed to be tourists with two more people left in a critical condition.
The fire ripped through the Tiger club, popular with foreign tourists, in Patong – Phuket’s west coast tourist hub – after a lightning strike.
“There are four confirmed dead. We believe they are foreign tourists, but it’s not yet confirmed,” Phuket deputy governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada told AFP by telephone today.
“The fire was caused by lightning, which struck a transformer and the fire spread throughout the place,” he added.
Darwin man Jaryd Kemp, 26, told the Northern Territory News: “It’s been a crazy night like all nights are in Thailand, but things went bad when lightning hit power lines and transformer exploded five metres away from me causing sparks and blue flames shooting off it.
“People on fire running out of the club like you would see in a movie,” he said.
“When I heard the reports of only four dead I couldn’t believe that.
“I’m safe just exhausted. Patong is my second home to Darwin and had to make sure all my friends were OK.”
Four French tourists were among those injured, one – 30-year-old Benjamin Tallanotte – with burns to 40 percent of his body.
”Tiger Disco? I don’t know what happened,” Tallanotte told Phuket Wan News Tourism.
The hospital listed the other Frenchmen treated for less serious burns as Nycolas Robyn, 25, Mathieu Lagrange, 40, and Yasmine Khelaef-Humber, 31, along with seven Thais.
Survivor Kanyaporn Kantong, 25, who was one of several victims treated for burns at Patong Hospital, told Phuket Wan Tourism News: ”Someone pushed me out the door. I owe them my life.”
Hundreds of people were in the disco at the time, she said.
”We saw the smoke but I thought it was a disco special effect. Then I looked up at the disco ball and saw the flames.
”We knew then that it was serious. I didn’t know which way to go. Luckily, someone pushed me in the right direction.”
It took more than an hour for firemen to get the blaze under control.
“We received more than 20 people who sustained injuries from the Tiger pub fire. Most are suffering from suffocation,” a hospital worker told ABC.
“Two are in critical condition from severe burns. One of them is a French man who suffered burns on his torso.
“The four dead bodies were burnt beyond recognition. We cannot identify even their gender.”
The fire broke out early today at the late-night Tiger disco in the town of Patong, a magnet for foreign tourists on the southern island, almost two hours after all bars and other venues in Patong are meant to close.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it was saddened by the news.
“The Australian embassy in Bangkok and the Australian Honorary Consul in Phuket are urgently liaising with local authorities to determine whether any Australians are affected,” a DFAT spokesperson said.
“Thai authorities are yet to advise us on the nationalities of those affected.”
This morning’s blaze ripped through the premises at the back of the Tiger complex, exposing beams along about 30 metres of the structure.
A large crowd of onlookers was held back as ambulances backed down the laneway to pick up the bodies in the club., which is on the corner with Soi Bangla.
The manager of the Tiger Discotheque, Tamrongsak Boonsak, said the fire broke out about 2am.
”People heard two blasts and it was originally thought that it was further down Soi Bangla,” he said.
”We will do what we can to help those who have been injured and to help the families of those who have died.”
The fire is the worst in a Thailand nightclub since the fire at the Santika in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve 2009 killed 62 people.
If anyone is concerned about someone being in the Patong area of Phuket there is a 24 Hour Consular Emergency Centre: Call 1300 555 135 within Australia (local call cost) or +61 2 6261 3305 from outside Australia.