Thailand’s prime minister on Friday ordered an investigation into a massive blaze that tore through a nightclub, killing at least 13 people.
The fire broke out around 1:00 am (1800 GMT Thursday) at the Mountain B nightspot in Chonburi province’s Sattahip district, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Bangkok.
Video footage posted by a rescue service showed desperate revellers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes ablaze, as a huge fire raged in the background.
The Sawang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Foundation said 13 people were killed and more than 40 injured, 14 of them seriously.
The service said the blaze was accelerated 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 Prayut Chan-O-Cha offered condolences to the victims’ families and said he had ordered a probe into the fire.
The dead — four women and nine men — were found mostly crowded by the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies severely burned, the service said.
They were aged between 17 and 49 and all are believed to have been Thai.
“There is not death related to foreigners,” police lieutenant colonel Boonsong Yingyong of the Phlu Ta Luang police station, which oversees the area where the blaze occurred, told AFP by phone.
– Charred wreck –
One of the victims was the singer of the band playing at the club, his mother told local media.
“I don’t know what to say. The death came all of a sudden,” Premjai Sae-Oung told reporters.
She said a musician friend who managed to escape had told her the fire broke out in front of the band and spread rapidly.
Images of the aftermath showed how the fire had turned the inside of the club into a blackened wreck, with the charred metal frames of furniture scattered among ashes.
Engineers are inspecting the one-storey building amid fears it could collapse.
Interior minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters it appeared the Mountain B was operating “without permission” to run as an entertainment venue.
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 erupted at a New Year’s Eve party at Bangkok’s swanky Santika club in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.
The Santika owner was jailed for three years over the blaze, which began when fireworks were let off as a rock band called Burn played on stage.
More recently, four people were killed in a fire caused by an electrical fault at a club on the holiday island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists, in 2012.