From Andrew Drummond, Bangkok August 17 2012
A fire in a discotheque on the Thai holiday island of Phuket in which four revelers were burned to death beyond recognition took place nearly two hours after the club should have been legally closed.
Today as officials in Patong on the holiday island of Phuket counted the cost of this morning’s blaze, the club’s legal manager said that everything else was legal and management would not shirk their responsibilities.
At least two of the four fatalities are believed to be foreign tourists.
PICTURES - PHUKETWAN
Eleven others, including four French tourists are seriously injured suffering burns and smoke inhalation in the worst disco fire since the Santika Club in Bangkok burned down on New Year’s morning 2009 with 60 fatalities.
This morning’s fire was being initially blamed on a lightning strike. Thamrongsak Boonrak, Legal Counsel for Tiger Discotheque said: “I have been told that lightning struck a transformer.
"The power shut down and came back on three times before staff heard an explosion. At first they thought it was a bomb."
“People panicked and ran. Then a fire broke out and people started choking on the smoke. People stampeded for the exits, trampling one another as they ran for the doors,” he told the Phuket Gazette.
“The club is insured. Compensation will be paid in full for the people who were injured and the families of those who died in this tragedy. Everything about the club is legal."
Some Thai revelers who got out stayed to watch the rescue services
The club was however operating illegally by staying open beyond the official closing hour of 2 am. But that is not unusual in Phuket. Police turn a blind eye to local laws and accept payments for the service.
Moreover Thai laws are relaxed to cater for foreigners who tend to want to party much longer. Mr. Boonsak had his own explanation for the club remaining open.
“Heavy rain started to fall at about 1am, the time we usually close. That’s why people did not want to leave the club.
“It was still packed at 4 am when the fire broke out.” he said.
The Tiger Disco is part of a controversial consortium which runs hotels, clubs and a Thai boxing stadium on Phuket, owned by a powerful local family. The group has been accused of also running illegal underground gambling casinos.