2 Jan 2009

Dozens killed in Bangkok nightclub blaze

7:29 am on 2 January 2009

At least 59 people were killed when a fire ripped through a popular nightclub in the Thai capital Bangkok early on Thursday as people were celebrating New Year.

Some said the fire was caused by fireworks, others that it was an electrical fault.

The blaze broke out at the Santika club in the city's Ekkamai district, a busy entertainment area frequented by locals and tourists.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva visited the injured at one hospital and the charred building, saying fire crackers should not have been brought inside the club.

The Health Ministry's emergency centre said 59 people had been killed and 184 people had been injured.

Foreigners treated in hospitals included those from Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and France, police say.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says no New Zealanders are believed to have been among those killed or injured

"It appears that the fire started from the area of the stage where a band was playing. There were some pyrotechnics and it appears that they started the blaze," Police Lieutenant Colonel Prawit Kantwol told AFP.

"Most of the victims died from suffocation but some were also killed in a stampede when people were trying to get out," he added.

The two-storey club, which is popular with Bangkok's elite, has a capacity of 1,000 people but it was not clear how many were there at the time of the blaze.

Almost all the dead were on the ground floor, where the stage was located.

An AFP correspondent said the nightclub had been completely gutted by the fire, which broke out between midnight and 1.00am, shortly after revellers had celebrated the passing of the New Year.