Bangkok, Thailand – A fire swept through a high class nightclub jammed with hundreds of New Year’s revelers in the Thai capital, killing at least 54 people and injuring about 100, officials said early Thursday. Victims died from burns, smoke inhalation and injuries during the stampede to escape from the club, which had only one door for entry and exit, police Maj. Gen. Chokchai Deeprasertwit said.
He said that the fire may have been caused by firecrackers brought into the Santika Club by guests or sparks flying from a New Year’s countdown display on the nightclub stage.
Police said 53 people people were confirmed dead at the club and another person died at a hospital. Workers counting bodies told The Associated Press that about 100 others were injured when the blaze broke out in the building, which has two stories and a basement.
The rescue workers said most of the bodies were found in the basement of the club, which attracts a well-heeled crowd of Thais and foreigners. The corpses, placed in white body bags, were laid out in rows in the parking lot in front of the club.
A video provided to AP Television News by one of the rescue workers showed bloodied, bruised and burned victims being dragged out of the burning club or managing to run through the door or shattered windows. Flames were racing through the entire building during the rescue operation.
Witnesses said several hundred people were inside the club when the blaze erupted.
One local Web site about the entertainment scene in Bangkok described the club as attracting “an affluent Thai student crowd, with Euro models and Westerners also popping in” with a “whisky-sipping crowd all focused on a large stage.”
Another site says that the high ceiling and a cross in the main room makes one feel “like walking into a church.”