Few visitors as Erawan Shrine reopens under a cloud of fear

Few visitors as Erawan Shrine reopens under a cloud of fear
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

The Erawan Shrine reopened yesterday after Monday's deadly bomb blast with only a few tourists visiting the site, even as 48 victims were still undergoing treatment at 11 hospitals around Bangkok, 12 of them in critical condition.

Of the critically injured, five are Thais and seven are foreigners.

The shrine had suffered moderate damage from the blast, but was reopened to the public yesterday after extensive cleaning. Only a few visitors were seen at the once-bustling tourist destination, amid fears about security in the capital city.

John, a tourist from New Zealand, stopped to take a photo of the blast scene in front of the shrine. Speaking to a reporter, he said he still had concerns about security in Bangkok.

"I admit that I am not sure about the security here, but I understand that such a sad event can occur anywhere. I come from New Zealand, which is quite a safe place, but even in my country there was a case of an attack on Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior," he said.

The New Zealander, who heads to Chiang Mai today, still intends to visit Thailand again.

"I like this country," he said.

The shrine area was yesterday crowded with reporters and police. A Chinese tourist named Vivian was one of few visitors to the shrine.

"I feel shocked and sorry for the bloody attack here. Our family just arrived here from Chiang Mai and we wanted to see what happened here and pay our respects to the victims," Vivian said.

She said she still did not feel safe in Bangkok despite the presence of police and security officers around the Ratchaprasong area. She and her family plan to travel to Phuket in the next few days.

The attack not only claimed the lives of 20 people but also severely hit the economy of the district. Kumpa Yodsrimuang, a florist in front of the shrine, said her business was down 90 per cent after the incident.

"I am lucky that the florist stalls in front of the shrine were all closed on Monday, but the blast has seriously hurt us economically," Kumpa said.

"I have many debts to pay and there are many daily expenses. I don't know what to do in this situation. I am old now and I have sold flowers all my life, I can't change my job now."

She admitted having fears of another bomb blast, but she said selling flowers was her only means of earning a livelihood.

"I think the situation will recover in five or six months, as is usually the case after violence in the Ratchaprasong area, but until then my debts are going to increase," she said.

According to the National Council for Peace and Order, 68 bomb victims were being treated at hospitals around Bangkok.

The chief of Chulalongkorn Hospital's trauma department, Dr Rattaplee Pak-art, revealed that victims of the blast are gradually returning home, and there were only 15 patients left at the hospital yesterday.

"Four of the patients are still in critical condition, the most serious case being that of a victim who has to undergo brain surgery, as he has suffered brain damage. But I can assure everyone that we are putting all the resources we have to help him and every patient as much as we can," Rattaplee stated.

He said the patients and their relatives are all more hopeful now that the blast victims will get better soon.

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