Thailand’s prime minister has ordered an investigation into a massive blaze that tore through a nightclub, killing at least 14 people.
The fire broke out about 1am on Friday at the Mountain B nightspot in Chonburi province’s Sattahip district, about 90 miles south-east of Bangkok.
Video footage posted by a rescue service showed desperate revelers fleeing the club screaming, their clothes ablaze, as fire raged in the background.
Chalit Chotisupakarn, who escaped with burns to his arms and torso, described scenes of panic and desperation as people struggled to get out of the building.
“I couldn’t see anything, everything was dark. Everybody was shouting ‘Get out! Get out!’ We all had to try to get out,” he told reporters.
“I just pushed and pushed. There were people with fire all over their bodies.”
The Sawang Rojanathammasathan Rescue Foundation said 14 people were killed and about 40 injured.
The service said the blaze was accelerated by flammable acoustic foam on the walls of the club, and it took firefighters more than three hours to bring it under control.
The prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, offered condolences to the victims’ families and said he had ordered an investigation into the fire.
The dead – four women and 10 men – were found mostly by the entrance and in the bathroom, their bodies severely burned, the service said. They were aged between 17 and 49 and all are believed to have been Thai.
One of the victims was the singer of the band playing at the club, his mother told local media. “I don’t know what to say. The death came all of a sudden,” Premjai Sae-oung told reporters.
She said a musician friend who escaped had told her the fire broke out in front of the band and spread rapidly.
Police are investigating if fire escapes were present in the single-storey building and engineers are inspecting the structure amid fears it could collapse.
Sompong Chingduang, assistant commissioner of the Royal Thai police, said the owner was under investigation for apparently changing the venue from a restaurant to a nightclub without permission.
Concerns have long been raised about Thailand’s lax approach to health and safety regulations, particularly in its countless bars and nightclubs.
A massive inferno erupted at a New Year’s Eve party at Bangkok’s upmarket Santika club in 2009, killing 67 people and injuring more than 200.
The owner of Santika was jailed for three years following the blaze, which began when fireworks were set off as a rock band called Burn played on stage.
In 2012, four people were killed in a fire caused by an electrical fault at a club on the island of Phuket, a magnet for foreign tourists.