Police at the SuperCheap store inferno tonight said they feared there were dead inside the store. Well into Thursday morning the blaze remained out of control with fire trucks brought in from as far as the neighboring province of Phang Nga.
PHUKET: A huge blaze burning at the main SuperCheap store in Phuket City tonight was clearly still out of control into Thursday morning.
Every firetruck on Phuket was diverted to the scene from the time the blaze broke out at 9.45pm. Electricity to the area around the store has been cut.
''The fire is massive,'' a Phuketwan journalist reported on the way to the blaze. ''It's lighting up the night from kilometres away.''
Columns of fire and smoke were shooting high into the sky. Kusoldharm Phuket Foundation paramedics and police believe bodies will be found inside.
Phuket Public Health said at least 10 medical teams were on standby to enter the building, expecting to find dead.
Blasts that appeared to be from fireworks continued to sound late into the night and on into Thursday morning.
At the Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City, doctors and nurses were treating people burned in the blaze.
Some of them were Burmese and could not speak Thai. The SuperCheap store, popular with poor especially for its bargains, employed many Burmese as shop assistants.
In tears, a Thai woman at the hospital was being treated for a leg wound she suffered as she fell while running for her life.
''There was no fire alarm,'' she said. ''Everybody just started running for the door.''
People who are not able to contact relatives who were shopping or working on Wednesday night are being advised to visit Rajabhat University on Thursday to report to authorities so a list of missing persons can be compiled.
Phuket's National Blood Service is preparing backup if needed for victims. Donation times fun from 8.30am-2pm. (Information 076 251178 ext. 2 or 081 9588854).
Phuket provincial authorities are already setting up a centre to provide aid to needy victims of the fire. Lessons of the 2004 tsunami have been remembered.
The destroyed store, large and rambling, consisted of a series of corrugated iron warehouses in Thepkasattri Road, Phuket's main north-south artery.
It is - or was - a well-known Phuket landmark for the local island brand that has recently opened smaller stores to compete with the bigger convenience store brands.
However, the headquarters remains the most popular outlet - and a large warehouse full of goods of all kinds sits directly behind it. A petrol station is located nearby.
The main store is unconventional and has become an alternative Phuket tourist attraction because of its chaotic layout. Just about everything, from live fish to furniture to drugs and car accessories, is sold there.
Officials from local administrations all over Phuket, including Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin could be spotted among worried onlookers at the scene.
Phuket Governor maitree Intrusud was in Bangkok for the day but will return to Phuket on an early flight on Thursday morning.