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Water was still being poured onto the huge fire today

Search Begins for Cause of Huge Phuket Store Blaze: Thousands Thrown Out of Work

Thursday, October 17, 2013
PHUKET: Police were due to begin a hunt for bodies and for the cause of the SuperCheap superstore blaze at 2.30pm this afternoon.

Forensics officers from Region 8 headquarters in Surat Thani are to join the Phuket forensics team in an examination.

So far, estimates of large numbers of dead appear wide of the mark.

The fire may not have spread fast enough to trap anyone inside the cavernous store when it was first noticed about 9.30pm.

Apart from a few superficial injuries noted when a Phuketwan reporter visited the Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City last night, there have been no reports of burned survivors.

There is also as yet not long list of missing, indicating that although the blaze was huge, it may not have killed anyone.

Phuket Governor Maitree Intrusud visited the site today. He said he had been told there could have been 100 people in the landmark Phuket store at the time the blaze was first noticed.

Customer Prasert Pansuk, who visits the store every day, told Phuketwan that he had just bought some chicken and picked up some yellow dye for rice when someone said a fire had broken out.

''At that stage, I saw the fire and urged everyone to run,'' he said. When Khun Prasert spoke to a reporter at the scene late last night, he still had the rice dye in his hand.

''The flames were not especially high at that stage, so people were able to hurry out,'' he said.

A staffer at the store also saw the blaze and customers kept asking whether they really had to leave, or whether they could continue shopping.

''Once people saw the fire for themselves, they ran,'' the woman staffer said. ''Staff tried to control it but it quickly became apparent that it could not be controlled.''

There was too much wood and flammable materials for it to be stopped, she said.

SuperCheap has 3500 employees at the store, making it probably the biggest private employer on Phuket.

Of the staff, 2736 workers are Thai and the rest are mostly Burmese, with some Cambodians and Laotians.

The store covered 7700 square metres and there was a 4000 square metre warehouse attached, on 31 rai of land.

With the blaze now appearing to have caused few if any deaths, the attention of the authorities and the store's owners has turned to the economic consequences.

SuperCheap was the source of most fresh food for businesses not just all across Phuket, but beyond the island to Phang Nga and Krabi as well.

Restaurants and resorts on the mainland and on other offshore islands also shop out of preference at SuperCheap.

There will be no replacement for the SuperCheap network in a hurry.

Local SuperCheap convenience stores visited by Phuketwan reporters today were all without their usual fresh food stocks.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Did Prasert Pansuk pay for the rice dye?

Posted by rye on October 17, 2013 16:04

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@ Rye - this is a tragedy so huge, about 100 people had a cruel death, 3,500 lost their jobs and several thousand small business and consumers will suffer for a long time, due to lack of supplies.
So this is an improper situation for stupid jokes!

Posted by Sherlock on October 17, 2013 17:18

Editor Comment:

Sherlock, I'n not sure why readers come to Phuketwan and carry information from less reliable sources here, but we can assure you that the death toll will be small or, with luck, nonexistent. Anyone who reported that ''hundreds'' were involved or were likely to die has lost their grasp of reality. I suggest you tell them so. But it's still certainly no time for jokes. We're also not interested in publishing the thoughts of those who say '' glad it burned.'' That just proves there are too many malicious thinkers out there.

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The fire and the resulting run off of water used to extinguish it have created an environmental crisis that has not yet been mentioned. The retailer contained thousands litters and kilos of materials such as solvents, pesticides, herbicides, oils etc. that require special attention to their containment, collection and disposal. Are the local authorities going to address this aspect of the fire? The chemical and heavy metal metal residues and byproducts created from the high heat have the potential to inflict serious harm should they migrate into the water table. Yes, there have been some injuries and fatalities, but I would be more concerned about the response to the toxic mess than anything else at this point. I have a bad feeling that the debris will just get dumped somewhere and that no effort will be made to clean the runoff at the site. This is an environmental crisis that has the potential to leave a silent,yet deadly legacy.

Posted by Ryan on October 17, 2013 19:28


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