Desperate scene as elderly woman dies in Bangkok highrise fire

Desperate scene as elderly woman dies in Bangkok highrise fire
Fire breaks out in a 10-storey residential building in Bangkok’s Yannawa district yesterday.
PHOTO: The Nation

A 65-YEAR-OLD woman begged for help for nearly 20 minutes on the small balcony of her fire-engulfed high-rise home in the heart of Bangkok yesterday morning but could not be saved.

Angkana Aisiri collapsed on the balcony, apparently from suffocation, as her relatives prayed from below.

The balcony is on the sixth floor of the building that is owned by former Ranong senator Vikrom Aisiri. He has owned many businesses including the Andaman Club Hotel on Koh Son.

Angkana was the only death from the blaze, which broke out at about 10.30am. Eight people sustained injuries but survived. Three remained hospitalised yesterday.

One of the survivors, 46-year-old Chettha Nguan-soong, jumped from the third floor to escape the blaze.

Residents said the victims' relatives made Chinese-style worship items on the third floor of their ten-storey home in the morning and then came down to the ground floor. Later, they noticed the building was on fire.

When Angkana appeared on the balcony on the sixth floor, her relatives loudly cried for help. Firefighters, however, had difficulty containing the blaze due to its height.

Located on Soi Narathiwat 18 of Bangkok's Yannawa district, the building sits on a narrow road. Initially, just one fire truck could access it.

Other trucks had to park in front of the road, and firefighters dragged water hoses to the scene of the fire. Some climbed over nearby row houses to try and control the blaze.

By the time a fire truck with a rescue basket reached the scene it was too late to save Angkana.

After seeing Angkana collapse on the balcony, some of her relatives also fainted.

The Thai Police Aviation Division dispatched a rescue helicopter to facilitate rescue operations at the building.

The blaze resulted in nearby Maneerut Kindergarten School evacuating 350 students and asking parents to pick up students aged two to six.

Saranuchit Ngarmwilai, who was among the first batch of firemen to reach the scene, said the building apparently did not have a sprinkler system or any other fire-prevention system.

Yannawa District Office director Suthas Rujinarong said was now declared off-limits.

"Relevant officials will inspect the structure to determine if a demolition is needed," he said.

An informed source said the building was about 30 years old and its fire-escape ladders fixed recently.

In the late afternoon, police arrested a volunteer rescue worker who allegedly stole a luxury watch, worth about Bt200,000 from the building during the fire. Chatchai Sirirojpanyakul, 40, was charged with theft.

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