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Saturday, July 13, 2024

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Fire in Chinatown Destroys Homes and Injures Dozens

A significant fire erupted at 8:42 p.m. on Saturday night in the historic Trok Pho community, a hidden enclave amidst the bustling Bangkok Chinatown. The fire quickly spread, engulfing four houses by the time firefighters arrived.

At 9:15 p.m., additional fire trucks from 11 stations were dispatched as the blaze continued to consume more wooden homes in the area. By 9:30 p.m., reports emerged of guests trapped in the adjacent New Empire Hotel, escalating the urgency of the situation.

The fire raged for about an hour, during which firefighters worked tirelessly to control it. The structural integrity of the wooden houses deteriorated rapidly, with periodic creaking noises signaling imminent collapses.

By 9:50 p.m., emergency officials reported that the fire had spread to nearby commercial buildings behind Soi Mitsamphan, prompting calls for more fire trucks. At 10:00 p.m., a man and a woman were reported trapped on the sixth floor of the hotel, leading firefighters to use a crane to rescue them. Five firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation, and one received an electric shock. Those affected were taken to the Thian Fah Foundation for first aid.

At 10:15 p.m., emergency services entered the eight-story New Empire Hotel to search for any remaining trapped guests, instructing them to turn on their room lights and open windows to signal their locations. A first aid shelter was set up at Traimit Temple by 10:30 p.m., where 28 people received treatment for smoke inhalation.

Simultaneously, the Thian Fah Foundation Hospital began evacuations as smoke infiltrated the facility and the fire’s heat became more intense. Firefighters successfully contained the fire within the old community’s boundaries, though several nearby commercial buildings were damaged.

At 11:15 p.m., Suriyachai Raveewan, chief of the city administration’s public disaster mitigation office, confirmed that the fire had been brought under control, and officials were preparing to inspect the scene. The Trok Pho community, home to many elderly residents and migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, suffered significant losses. According to the Samphanthawong district office, 66 wooden houses were destroyed, affecting 245 people. A hotel and two restaurants sustained partial damage.

In response to the disaster, at least 265 people, both Thai and foreign nationals, have registered for emergency assistance. The Samphanthawong district has set up a registration desk in front of the Chinatown Hotel for those affected. Four temporary shelters have been established at Trimit, Samphanthawong, and Chana Songkram temples, as well as the Pichaiyat building.

The fire spread rapidly through the mostly wooden buildings in the old community, and the narrow alleyways hindered the fire trucks’ access. The cost of the damage is still being assessed. There are 65 houses in Trok Pho alley.

Three guests at the New Empire Hotel were rescued by firefighters before the situation was brought under control around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Thirty people, mostly elderly, have been admitted to the hospital for smoke inhalation. One rescue worker suffered an electrical shock while on duty. Yaowarat Road was reopened to traffic at 2:00 a.m.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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