A fire ripped through a nightclub popular with foreign tourists in Thailand early Friday, leaving at least four people dead and more than 20 others injured, officials said.
Hospital workers said foreigners were among the casualties in the blaze at the Tiger disco on the island of Phuket, where rescue workers pulled the charred bodies of victims out of the smoldering wreckage.
“There are four confirmed dead. We believe they are foreign tourists but it’s not yet confirmed,” Phuket deputy governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada told AFP by telephone.
“The fire was caused by lightning which struck a transformer and the fire spread throughout the place,” he added.
Hospital workers in the seaside resort of Patong said the injured included both Thais and foreigners.
“We received more than 20 people who sustained injuries from the Tiger Pub fire. Most are suffering from suffocation,” one hospital worker said.
“Two are in critical condition from severe burns. One of them is a French man who suffered burns on his torso,” she added. “The four dead bodies were burnt beyond recognition. We cannot identify even their gender.”
Police kept back a crowd of onlookers as ambulances arrived to collect the casualties, according to local media.
“It’s totally destroyed on the second floor where the fire broke out,” said a provincial official at the scene.
Concerns about fire safety at Thai nightclubs were highlighted by a massive blaze at a disco in the capital Bangkok in 2009 that left more than 60 people dead, including foreigners, as people celebrated the New Year.
In that incident hundreds of party-goers were inside the Santika Club when it was set ablaze by pyrotechnics during a performance by a rock band
Three Singaporeans, one Japanese and a Myanmar national were among the dead, while scores of foreigners including some from Australia, France and Britain were injured.
Last year the owner was convicted of gross negligence and sentenced to three years in prison.
Thailand is a tourist magnet but its image as the “Land of Smiles” has been tested in recent years by deadly political unrest, devastating floods and concerns about violent crimes against foreigners.
In June an Australian woman was stabbed to death during an attempted robbery in Phuket, while two Canadian sisters were found dead in a hotel room on nearby Phi Phi island, showing signs of an extreme toxic reaction.