Thailand’s prime minister on Friday ordered an investigation into a massive fire that ripped through a packed music pub, killing at least 14 people — including a female singer who was performing when the fire broke out near the stage.
The fire broke out around 1 a.m. at the night site of Mount B in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 90 miles southeast of Bangkok.
Video footage released by emergency services shows desperate revelers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes on fire, as a huge fire raged in the background.
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 shouted “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 Savang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Foundation said 14 people were killed and about 40 injured.
A waitress at the venue, Thaniapat Sornsuvanhiran, told Thai television reporters that she saw smoke near the stage.
I shouted ‘fire’ to the customers, and I was near the door, so I directed them outside. I kept shouting ‘fire, fire’, and security was also helping to get people out,” she said.
The service said the fire was fueled by flammable acoustic foam on the walls of the club, and it took firefighters more than three hours to bring it under control.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha expressed 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 crowded at the entrance and in the bathroom, and their bodies were badly burned, the service said.
They were aged between 17 and 49 and are all believed to be Thai nationals.
“There are no deaths related to foreigners,” police lieutenant colonel Boonsong Jingiong of Phlu Ta Luang police station, which oversees the area where the fire broke out, told AFP by phone.
One of the victims is the singer of a band playing at the club, his mother told local media.
“I do not 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 started outside the band and spread quickly.
“The fire broke out 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 shouted ‘fire’ and threw the microphone.”
Images of the aftermath show how the fire reduced the interior of the club to a blackened wreckage, with charred metal furniture frames strewn across the ash.
Police are investigating whether there were fire escapes in the one-story building, and engineers are inspecting the structure amid fears it could collapse.
Home Affairs Minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters that Mount B appeared to be operating “without a permit” to be a party 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 a license.
There have long been concerns about Thailand’s lax approach to health and safety regulations, particularly in its countless bars and nightclubs.
A massive inferno broke out at a New Year’s Eve party at the posh Santika club in Bangkok in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.
The owner of Santika was sentenced to three years in prison for the fire, which started when fireworks were set off while a rock band called Burn was playing on stage.
2016 night fire in the dormitory of a Christian primary school in the north of Thailand.
More recently, four people died in a fire caused by an electrical fault at a club on the holiday island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists, in 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.