Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009
A British survivor of the New Year fire horror in a Bangkok club told tonight how he was saved from death by the hand of an angel.

Alex Wargacki, 29, told how he collapsed and fell unconscious, as fire raged threw the Santika nightclub in Bangkok, taking the lives of 60 people, and injuring over 200 including four Britons.

'I woke up and heard this voice saying. 'Come on. Come on this way' . Then I felt myself being dragged towards an exit. A crowd of people parted in front of me and then I was out in the open air.

'Had it not been for this voice with the hand of an angel I would not be alive today.  The voice sounded as if he was Thai.  Maybe he was one of the people at the New Year's party.

'Maybe he was a fireman. But when I get out of hospital I want to thank him for sure.'

Mr. Wargacki, a Forex trader, from Finchley, North London, told how he saw the fire being started in the club at about 12.30 am on New Year's morning.

Together with seven friends he had been revelling to rap and hip hop music in the club.

'Suddenly to the right of the stage I saw a firework being let off amongst a crowd of partygoers. I shot right across the room. I don't know exactly how long, but it seemed no time at all when the whole place, walls and ceilings were ablaze.

'Then everyone started running for the door. But the door seemed tiny and people were jammed up against it.  If there was another way out, none of us knew about it, and all the windows were barred.

'There were flames from the floor to the ceiling. I could hear windows cracking and breaking in the heat.

'I felt myself going unconscious. I knew something was happening to my lungs. I could not breathe. I blacked out and fell to the floor.  That's when I heard the voice

'I had been to the club many times and went to the New Year's Party because the club was closing and it was their 'Goodbye Santika' party.

'I guess I always knew the place was a bit of a death trap. But that's like so many places here. That's Thailand. You come to expect it. I have worked here for four years and got used to it. Even some shopping malls are accidents waiting to happen.

Speaking at Samitivej Hospital off Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road, Mr. Wargacki added 'A British Embassy official came to see me today. Maybe they can help.  My hospital bill is already ?1500. I am hoping the club owners will pay it.'

Alex Wargacki  was one of four Britons injured in the blaze. He was brought to the Samitivej Hospital will fellow Briton Oliver Smart, 35, who last night was still unable to speak.

A hospital spokesman said: 'One of his lungs totally collapsed. He has been only able to tell us his name, and that he was with his Thai girlfriend.   She is being treated at another hospital.'

The other two Britons were named as Steven Hall, from South Wales, and Adam Butler.

Steven Hall who was treated at the city's Bamrungrad Hospital for third degree burns to his back and hand told CNN: 'About 12.30 or 12.45, I saw flames billowing out across the ceiling.

'At first I thought it was part of the show, along with everybody else I think, but I noticed the look of terror on the people's faces on the actual stage and I instantly realised it wasn't.'

 'I could feel the heat almost straight away, but people weren't reacting,' he said.

'There was a girl behind the bar who was more concerned with getting the cash register out.'

'It was pitch black, it was burning my back, I put my hand behind me on my head, and on the way to the hospital, the skin was dropping off my hand.'

There was only one way down from the balcony that ringed the top level, and one way up from the toilets in the sub-ground floor, he said. All the windows were barred.

'The flames spread very very fast. It went straight along the ceiling.'

Thailand's Eton educated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday visited the scene of the tragedy and victims in the nearby Camillian Hospital.

'Why was someone allowed to let off a firework in the club?' he asked.

Serious questions were also raised about the fire precautions in the club. Thailand has a history of tragic fires.  Some 380 workers died in a toy factory on the outskirts of Bangkok unable to get out of fire escapes which were padlocked.  A club fire Route 66 club in the resort of Pattaya also took a heavy death toll.

Revelers complained that there was no sprinkler system in the Santika.  And that although there were other exits, there were no signs pointing out where they were, so everyone fled to the front door.

Exits can be locked in Thai club for fear of people leaving without paying their bills

The Foreign Office say that they have not been notified about any British fatality though it was reported by one newspaper that a 34-yr-old female British teacher had died. The bodies of some 32 people, who have been burned beyond, have still to be identified.

The club in Bangkok's  Thong Lor district, an area known for up-market night clubs frequented by both Thais and foreigners,  operates on three levels, basement, ground floor and second floor.

Many of the dead were trapped in the basement unable to get up the one stairwell. Others were knocked down in the stampede to the clubs one main entrance and exit.

Members of the band which was playing were reported to have been able to get out a rear exit that few people knew about.

Briton Andrew Long, who managed to escape, said: 'There were a number of people trapped in the toilets which were in the basement. Some people were able to escape through windows, but some were barred. '


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