Top engineer says Thailand does not yet seem to have learned lessons from the Santika nightclub fire in Bangkok in 2009 which killed 66 people in New Year’s Eve celebrations as an extensive survey is launched in Bangkok and other provinces probing entertainment venues with 83 already shuttered in the capital and more expected to follow as 19 people fight for their lives in hospital on ventilators after Friday morning’s nightmare inferno.
Calls are growing for police to act decisively against the owner of the ill-fated Mountain B nightclub venue in Sattahip, Chonburi after Friday morning’s horrific inferno which has seen 15 people die so far and 37 more injured, some of them very seriously. The news comes as a senior police official has revealed that the illegal development on 3 rai of land did not have a single electrical circuit breaker. On Saturday, the Ministry of the Interior, Anupong Paochinda, revealed that an enquiry by his ministry has already begun into how the nightlife venue could have been operating without a licence in an area where such venues are prohibited.
The Deputy Chief of Provincial Police Region 2 covering Chonburi where, on Friday morning, a lethal fire erupted in the Sattahip district, has revealed that the establishment which reportedly only opened two months ago, had no electricity circuit breaker and only had two fire extinguishers installed within the extensive premises.
Police are urgently seeking to question the electrician working at the establishment with reports that he had just finished repairs and alterations to the electrical system as well as the owner concerning a multitude of issues including the fact that the business was operating illegally despite claims by management that an application for a licence had been lodged on June 12th last after it opened with just a licence to operate as an eatery.
Local district chief transferred after initial probe showed the extensive development was unlicensed
The revelation from Police Major General Chaipoj Suwanrak comes as the families of the 15 people who died, so far, in the inferno with 37 others injured, 19 of them very seriously and requiring ventilation to breathe, have called for the owner of the premises, 27-year-old Pongsiri Panprasong, to be held responsible as it has also emerged from information released by senior officials that the Mountain B complex did not possess a licence for a pub or entertainment venue.
Mountain B was operated on a large 3 rai site in the Phlu Ta Luang area of the district which was not zoned for entertainment purposes.
The local district chief has been transferred from his position after these revelations as the public clamour for answers and accountability has just begun following the tragedy.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, after hearing reports from the Minister of the Interior Anupong Paochinda about serious deficiencies at the venue, including the lack of a valid licence, called for police to act swiftly and decisively to bring those responsible to book.
The prime minister linked this horrendous incident to the New Year’s Day fire in 2009 at the Santika nightclub in Ekkamai in central Bangkok which saw 66 people killed and up to 200 injured after a fire erupted as partygoers were ringing in the new year.
Traumatised mother of the 15th deceased person in the fire, 36-year-old Thanakrit Neenoi, still has not had a call from either the owner or authorities
Following the demise of that club and a robust police investigation, the owner, Mr Wisuk Sejsawat and Mr Boonchu Laosrinak, a pyrotechnics specialist who worked on the ill-fated firework show that sparked the inferno, were jailed for three years.
On Saturday, the mother of the 15th person to die from the tragedy, 63-year-old Mrs Atchara Neenoi told the press of the pain and trauma of losing her 36-year-old son, Mr Thanakrit Neenoi, before his time.
She revealed that neither the owner of the Mountain B establishment nor the authorities had yet contacted her. She held the owner of the Mountain B bar responsible for the death of her son.
Ms Athara said her son had died at Rayong Hospital at 7.45 am on Saturday morning and left behind two grandchildren whose mother was also injured and hospitalised by the fire. She described him as the breadwinner for the family.
‘We are mothers. We expect to die first and if a child goes before us, it is very difficult to accept the incident. There is no responsibility, I was never contacted or phoned by anyone to express regret or show any responsibility at all, so I want the owner of the pub to be aware of this matter. If opening a pub, you should be more responsible,’ she said.
Father of the fourteenth victim headed straight to Phlu Ta Luang Police Station after his son’s death at Queen Sirikit Hospital on Friday seeking justice
67-year-old Boonsong Mongkolkaew, the father of the fourteenth victim, Suthep Mongkolkaew, who died in hospital after 13 charred bodies were recovered from the complex on Friday morning after the fire was put out, said on Saturday that he had travelled immediately to Phlu Ta Luang Police Station to see that the official investigation into the case was being progressed, in particular against the owner of the pub who he thinks should be examined, after his son died at Queen Sirikit Hospital in Bangkok on Friday.
The inferno has led to a rapid reaction in Bangkok where Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt has already closed over 20% of pub and entertainment venues surveyed in an inspection of 400 venues where 83 were found to have defects.
More closures are expected to follow.
Closure of bars and venues throughout Bangkok in a rapid audit ordered in 50 districts by the governor
Inspectors throughout the city and the metropolitan area are trying to ensure that all venues are properly licensed, have appropriate fire exits with a minimum of two being required and that staff are practising regular fire drills so that they are ready to act in the case of an emergency.
Governor Chadchart, on Saturday, explained that City Hall had already begun checking such venues after a fire in the Silom area on June 7th last when a conflagration broke out at a six-story building in the heart of the city.
The City boss has appointed his adviser, Police Major General Adisorn Ngamjitsuksri, to oversee the survey of all pubs and entertainment venues in the capital’s 50 districts.
The governor said this was of heightened importance given the rising number of foreign tourists now arriving in the city although sources within the local authority suggest there are more fears right now about suburban establishments that cater primarily for Thai users than for bars and establishments in the heart of the city.
Fire is believed to have started in the roof area of the venue on Friday morning and spread downwards
The inferno on Friday morning which broke out at the Mountain B venue is believed to have started with a fire in the roof area which spread quickly down to the ceiling.
There were 100 people in the venue at the time.
The mother of 30-year-old Chatchai Chuenkha, Premjai sae Ung who was on stage when the fire took hold, told reporters on Saturday that a friend of her son had told her his fate was sealed when, in an instant, he was engulfed in flames while performing after an explosion erupted behind him from above.
The bar had only one viable exit in the front of the building as two others were ordered locked by management and was fitted out with what looked like luxurious decor including foam panels on the walls for soundproofing purposes as well as faux leather and other accoutrements.
Dangerous materials believed to have been used in the venue’s decor to give the impression of luxury
On Saturday, an engineering expert, Professor Anek Siripanichkorn who is President of Civil Engineering at The Engineering Institute of Thailand, said that the kingdom has still not learned a lesson from the Santika nightclub venue fire where what appeared to be luxurious decor including artificial wood, carpets with seating or wall covering using foam can lead to black smoke or noxious substances in the event of a fire while also making it certain that fire spreads quickly without the right materials which should be used as a breaker.
On Friday morning, as Sattahip police walked through the burned-out shell of Mountain B, the fire broke out again with officers forced to retreat from the scene.
Amid the devastation were the remains of a neon sign with a female figure and the words ‘Dance with Me’.
Police later recovered four charred bodies from behind the front door of the venue, three in the men’s restroom, one in the DJ booth and five within the cashier’s booth.