A thunderous sound. A searing bright light. And then, dead bodies to her right and left.
This was how Madam Betty Ong described the traumatic moments during the bombing at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok on Monday evening.
She was at one corner of the Shrine when the bomb went off. When she came to her senses, the path in front of her was strewn with broken glass.
People were screaming and those who could move scrambled to get away.
"The shrine was intact," the 70-year-old retiree told The New Paper over the phone from Hua Chiew Hospital in Bangkok.
"At that instant (when she saw the flash of light), it didn't strike me as a bomb or anything. I thought somebody was doing some gas lighting. It was a very bright spark."
The windows of neighbouring buildings shattered and there were dead bodies everywhere, she added.
"One child beside me was not moving. There was no blood, but he was not moving at all," Madam Ong said.
"I was in a state of shock."
At least 20 people, including a Singaporean woman, were killed in the blast. More than 100 were injured.
Madam Ong, her sister, her brother and her sister-in-law, had paid a quick visit to the shrine, a popular tourist spot in Bangkok.
They were on a stopover on their way back to Singapore from a holiday at Kao Yai, about 200km away.
"The place was very crowded and there was the usual cultural dance," she said, referring to dancers worshippers pay to perform.
There are four praying areas around the shrine and Madam Ong was at the third one, furthest from the entrance, when the blast occurred.
"(After the explosion) I sat on the ground. I was just looking forward to seeing my family," she said.
"My brother was about 1½ metres from me. He was calling to me to check if I was all right."
Madam Ong's brother told her that his leg was broken.
"We didn't see any blood or anything. But he said it was broken," she said.
"We couldn't move him. He didn't want to be moved.
"Then my sister came. She had a lot of fragments of glass stuck on her leg and on her face.
"There were bits of flesh on her. I thought the glass had cut her. But when I swept them away, I realised it was someone else's flesh."
Madam Ong said the scene was very chaotic and it was passers-by, rather than the police, who helped her and her family to the Police General Hospital across the street.
"The people around there were helping. Some came with wheelchairs," she said.
But the Ongs' ordeal was not over.
The Police General Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of casualties, Madam Ong said.
"It was very, very crowded and language was a big barrier.
"They couldn't understand what we were saying (and) we couldn't understand them. There was a big breakdown in communication."
Eventually, all four of them were transferred by ambulance to Hua Chiew Hospital about 3km away.
Madam Ong's brother and sister are now hospitalised there.
"We had to try very hard to get a quick operation done. My sister-in-law insisted that the operation be done on the same morning," said Madam Ong.
She added that two pieces of shrapnel about 5mm in size were removed from her brother's leg and he is waiting for a CT (Computed Tomography) scan to check if there are any foreign fragments lodged in his abdomen.
Her sister is waiting for an opinion from a plastic surgeon about her facial injuries.
Madam Ong was also hurt during the blast and needed stitches.
She said yesterday afternoon: "Since Monday night, we have not been able to go back to the hotel . We have not even had our meals. Until now, we are surviving only on water.
"Now we are stranded. We don't know how to go back. We are seeing whether the Singapore embassy can help us with that. I was one of the very, very lucky ones. There were dead bodies surrounding me. I looked on the left and on the right and there were dead bodies.
"I thought I would only see this on TV, the bombings and all that. I never thought that I would be in a situation like this."
This article was first published on August 19, 2015.
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