Thailand’s prime minister has ordered an investigation into a massive fire that swept through a nightclub, killing at least 14 people.
The fire broke out around 1 a.m. Friday at the Mountain B nightclub in the Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 145 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.
Video footage posted by a rescue service showed desperate revelers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes ablaze as the 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 leave the building.
“I couldn’t see anything, everything was dark. Everyone yelled ‘Go away! Out!’ We all had to try and get out,” he told reporters.
“I just pushed and pushed. There were people with fire all over their bodies.”
The Sawang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Foundation said 14 people were killed and about 40 injured.
The service said the fire was accelerated by combustible acoustic foam on the walls of the club, and it took firefighters more than three hours to get it under control.
The Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and said he had ordered an investigation into the fire.
The dead — four women and ten men — were mostly found near the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies badly burned, the agency said. They were between 17 and 49 years old and would all have been Thai.
One of the victims was the singer of the band who played at the club, his mother told local media. ‘I don’t know what to say. Death came suddenly,” Premjai Sae-oung told reporters.
She said a musician friend who had escaped told her that the fire broke out in front of the band and spread quickly.
Police are investigating whether there were any fire escapes in the single-storey building and engineers are inspecting the structure for fear it could collapse.
Sompong Chingduang, assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai Police, said the owner was under investigation for apparently changing the location from a restaurant to a nightclub without permission.
Concerns have long been raised 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 Bangkok’s swanky Santika club in 2009, killing 67 and injuring more than 200.
The owner of Santika was sentenced to three years in prison after the fire, which started when fireworks were set off when a rock band called Burn played on stage.
In 2012, four people were killed in a fire caused by an electrical failure at a club on Phuket Island, a magnet for foreign tourists.