Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fire in Bangkok Nightclub, 59 dead

A fire in a nightclub here in Bangkok killed 59 and injured many more. I didn't realize this had happened until just a moment ago when I noticed a post on it: Nightclub in Bangkok on fire on New Years Eve from a blog that I follow. The bar is called Santika Club in the Thong Lor area. I don't normally go to that area so it never crossed my mind to to their for the New Year's Eve celebrations. I was in some very overcrowded venues around Central World and Khao Sarn road last night and I was thinking about the possibility of a bombing or something but not of a random fire.

I hate to say it but fire safety in Thailand really sucks...pyrotechnic shows are done by obvious amateurs with absolutely no fire suppression system available...not even a fire extinguisher in many places. I don't know if that is what caused this, but the media reports seem to suggest that it might have. The article in that link mentions people fleeing for their lives and trampling some others to death in the process. If you've ever been to nightclubs, or even buses in Bangkok, you'll know that they stuff in as many people as can fit. There might be legal limits but they are pretty much non-enforced. I've gone into (or attempted to go into) clubs here where there wasn't even enough space to get past the ID check point.
I think the new Thai government should start to get tough on this stuff. Order the police to get tough on it. I like the wild side of life also, and I don't want Thailand to turn into a nanny state but untrained people should not be working on electrical lines in their bare feet and filling gasoline in a car while smoking a cigarette. Really, could a bit of fire-prevention safety and some safety standards really be that bad?

Just looked up another news report on it, this one from Al Jazeera that reports that police say it might have been caused by firecrackers that people brought in.
The Al Jazeera report quotes a survivor, Oh Benjamas as telling Reuters:
"We were all dancing and suddenly there was a big flame that came out of the front of the stage and everybody was running away...It was chaotic, too many people were stuck behind the door. Some of them tried to break through the glass window. I think a lot of those who died are people on the second floor who got stuck behind the crowd inside."

The article also states that "Watcharapong Sri-saard, a firefighter at the scene, told the Associated Press that another door at the rear of the building was known only to the staff" and that the number of staircases made it difficult for people to escape.
How horrible this is. I've been in bars when it's taken a really, really long time to make my way to the bathroom do to just about ever bit of space being filled with a person...was in one of those last night. I've been in a crowd of people all pushing hard to get through and had to really fight to not get knocked over...was in one of those last night also. And that was not a crowd who was trying to get out of a burning bar. I can't imagine...well I can imagine but I'd rather not.


Anonymous said...

I am not one for government control, but this is surely an example of when some type of control needs to be effected. I really love the free-wheeling of Thailand's system but a good application of control would be freedom for enterprise unless it endangers people. The tires on the blue death buses are a good example. Nothing wrong with having a company but be responsible and ensure your customers are safe. Whether it is a food stall, a bus company, or a nightclub. The owners should be charged.


Craig Williamson said...

A good follow up question would be at what point do we approach a slippery slope into the fabled "nanny state"? I wonder about that. I don't think that anyone, at any time ever decides to just starts with such basic things like fire safety and buses that are unlikely to explode and ends with the "polar night of icy darkness".

I suppose we need to wait to see what was the actual cause of the fire. The Prime Minister was on hand and at one point reportedly said that his question is why the club allowed someone to bring fire-works inside. If that is what happened, it's a good question. The owners most certainly should be charged with the highest possible charges. They are rich and they ran a very high end night club with only one known door, endless staircases, lack of emergency lighting and sprinklers. There is just simply no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Well,....I have had conversations with those that love the nanny state.

But I think your take on this is correct. Like I said, freedom of action until you endanger another person. The owners are likely at fault and need to do real jail time.

The club was indeed a high-end establishment. I would image that many of the victims were from wealthy families so we may see real action