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All that remains of Phuket's largest and most popular local shopping outlet, destroyed overnight in one of the holiday island's biggest fires

Phuket Blaze Aftermath: Hundreds Look for Signs of Life in SuperCheap Ashes

Thursday, October 17, 2013
Latest Blaze News and Photo Album

PHUKET: A huge pall of smoke rose over the holiday island of Phuket today as rescuers prepared to search the blackened ruins of a landmark shopping centre for victims.

A fire at the SuperCheap store razed the whole structure and brought hundreds to the scene at first light today seeking news of the missing shoppers and store clerks.

The fire sent the first people sprinting for the exits about 9.45pm last night but it was not until 6am today that scores of firemen considered the inferno to be under control.

Flames still burned, but not with the intensity that drove a huge column of flames and smoke scores of metres into the air at the height of the blaze last night.

Today a nearby resident at the flattened site in Thepkasattri Road, Phuket City, told Phuketwan he was hoping to find a missing friend.

''My friend worked in the store but we haven't seen him for hours,'' the resident said. The crowd numbered several hundreds anxious people, as dawn broke.

Soon the search will begin. The famous store was noted for its maze-like warren of aisles and a confusing web of doors.

When the cry of ''Fire! Fire!'' went up last night, one SuperCheap worker said, ''I just didn't believe it. Only when other people started running did we all run.''

The woman, about 35 years old, said she had been working at SuperCheap for 14 years as a shelf packer.

''When the fire began, staff tried to put it out themselves. But there was foam, plastic, paper, clothing . . . there was no way the flames could be stopped.''

About 3000 people were employed there, she said, both Thais and Burmese. They were all jobless now, she believed.

''This place was my second home,'' she said. ''I have been told that the store's owner is in hospital.''

There never did appear to be a great deal of attention to the possibility of fire. Today came an added economic concern.

SuperCheap was a source for most foodstuffs for many of Phuket's poor and underprivileged. Thousands of Burmese who work legally or illegally on the island for subsistence wages shop there.

Long-time customer Prasert Pansuk said: ''I have been coming here for almost 20 years. If you only had 10 baht to spend, you could buy a meal.

''Where will we get our food from now? SuperCheap is where everybody who isn't rich came to shop.''

The main store also was a hub for about 25 smaller SuperCheap convenience stores across the island. The blaze will have a huge impact on the Phuket economy.

With a tear in her eye, regular SuperCheap customer Jamnean Techaphan told Phuketwan she owned the No. 25 VIP Shopper Card at the store.

''I came to know everybody inside,'' she said. ''My home is at the other end of Phuket but I came here every day to buy to stock my own shop.

''Many families could survive the high prices on Phuket by coming here. Who will sell as cheap as SuperCheap?''

''It has always been an amazing place,'' another waiting onlooker said. ''You could buy anything there. Now it's all gone.''

Shoppers from the neighboring province of Phang Nga turned up at first light today, expecting to pick up bargains that usually made the trip to Phuket worthwhile.

A large part of the old Phuket - where people's practical needs always overwhelmed rules and regulations - fell to the ground overnight, along with SuperCheap's tin sheds.

With spot fires still burning brightly amid the ruins today, it could be another 48 hours before the ruins can be properly cleared and searched.

A temporary table for notification of missing people was set up this morning on the pavement outside the still-smoking ruins.

The Phuket National Blood Service is asking urgently for donors, with medical teams still waiting on the edges of the blackened site. Only firemen have been allowed in so far.

A spokesperson for the Thai Insurance company came forward today to say the SuperCheap buildings and contents were covered for 620 million baht.

Officials on Phuket were fearing the worst and have organised an official missing persons' centre at Rajabhat University where residents can go to list the names of friends or relatives.

Immediate compensation of 50,000 baht will be paid to each family in the event that bodies are found beneath today's smouldering tin ruins.

Six neighboring houses were damaged.

The family of security guard Jongdee Chinprai added her name to the missing list early today - then promptly removed it when she turned up safe.

Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud, who was in Bangkok yesterday, is expected back on Phuket on an early flight.

Help for Blaze Victims

PEOPLE who wish to help victims of the SuperCheap blaze are advised to call either of the following numbers:

076 218444 076 212047


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Verry sad ro read.
I don't hope there are victims but it is a real labyrint there.
I was there 2 days ago and saw in the middle of the store tables full with firecrackers from the vegie festival.
I don't hope the fire was started there because it looked verry scarry.

Posted by nero on October 17, 2013 08:23


Where can we donate blood?

Posted by PJ on October 17, 2013 08:29

Editor Comment:

At Red Cross in Saphan Hin, near the Labor office.


Firstly I hope everyone made it safely but i dont think anyone knows if there has been any fatalities yet but my thoughts are with the people who may not have made it out. Its a sad day for Phuket.

But again questions will need to be asked about fire safety in this place - many people have been here and know that this kind of accident was inevitable based on the products carried here and the general layout of the shop. Questions need to be asked of the authorities that passed this place fit for purpose during fire inspections....this story is only beginning.

Posted by Ciaran on October 17, 2013 08:37


Thai postings on facebook are quoting witnesses shopping at Supercheap at the initial stage when fire just broke, shoppers were trying to leave in a hurry. THe staff worried of looting actually shut down more exits. I'm still hopeful the casualty number doesn't get too high though it feels quite unlikely.

Posted by May on October 17, 2013 08:54

Editor Comment:

We wouldn't report that kind of stuff unless we could be certain it was true, and we can't be certain it is true. Facebook? A reliable source? Fortunately the likelihood of ''hundreds'' being caught up in the blaze grows less likely by the minute.


Well I'm just giving you another angle to investigate if it's true. I know you won't report it till verified but if it piqued your interest you might go check it and verify it. Better than me doing all the work no?

Posted by May on October 17, 2013 09:41


I keep thinking about this old man who works the late shift at the fruit aisle. I saw him working the night before when i go for a late night medicine shopping! Hope everyone got out in time.

Don't know what will happen, people will be stocking up foods like crazy there will definitely be shortage of some supplies because supercheap is the main distributer for several brands.

We always say that the place is a disaster waiting to happen, because of how it's built and the huge stock pile of things (flammable things)

Posted by Tanya on October 17, 2013 10:05


Allowed to operate for years in unsafe condition, are there fire regulations here? Who issues the inspection reports? They are as culpable in this as the owners. Let's hope any deaths and serious injury are minimal but I fear it may not be the case. All Local administration officials past and present and the owners of this deathtrap should be ashamed of themselves this morning..

What would be nice to hear is the 3 main companies whose profits will now go up massively locally (Tesco, Big C & Makro) would donate the EXTRA PROFITS they will generate from Phuket for 1 month(at least) to goto Families of deceased/ injured, relocation of workers who now have no job, and for purchase of fire equipment including platform ladders, fire retardant clothing for firefighters and breathing apparatus PLUS the training in the use of equipment that can be used to save lives for the benefit of all in Phuket.....That would show some good coming from such event at ZERO cost to those Companies...

Can the media help to get Companies who love to say they have corporate responsibility in the community to show some real impact from this event (that is likely to be called a tragic event once the fully affected numbers are known) by calling for something like this in the aftermath.At least these Companies could be seen to be doing some good from the extra profits they will undoubtedly make from this event.(although obviously it is not their fault they will now make these profits from the added business they will receive).

In addition a full overhaul of the fire regulations and their enforcement is needed but that will be a much more time consuming(at least a generation) problem to fix that needs National legislation and effective enforcement and the will and education of the people to make a difference....

Posted by Tom on October 17, 2013 11:23


Place for a firetrap with all the wiring and old timber, I always made sure I knew where the exit was - frankly surprised it lasted this long. Damn.. Nowhere to buy whole coffee beans at a reasonable price now. That and bulk pharmacy dept was one of the reasons I shopped there. I do hope all got out but I can imagine if shoppers were in there, some didn't. Horrible way to go.

Posted by Horse Doctor on October 17, 2013 19:15

Editor Comment:

Yet to be clear one way or the other whether anyone was caught in the blaze but the figure is likely to be extremely low compared to early guesswork.

Friday September 18, 2020
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