Woman missing in Phuket blaze

PHUKET - A massive fire that gutted a hypermarket-type store on Thailand's southern resort island of Phuket was brought under control Thursday afternoon after raging for more than 12 hours, local media reported.

There were no reports of casualties as of Thusday afternoon, but one person - a woman employee of the SuperCheap store - was reported missing, according to the Bangkok Post.

A police officer said it was still too dangerous to enter the site, adding that the cause of the fire was yet to be established.

Earlier, there was speculation that hundreds of people were trapped by the fire. But officials later said few shoppers were inside the store when the fire broke out.

Local district chief Weera Kerdsirimongkon said the fire started in a warehouse in the hypermarket at about 9.30pm local time on Wednesday. Mr Weera estimated the damage at millions of dollars.

Major travel agencies in Singapore told The Straits Times that though they had "free and easy" tour groups currently in Phuket, they were not likely to be at the hypermarket as it is located near Karon beach, an area not commonly frequented by Singaporean visitors and other tourists.

"There are food stores there, but Singaporeans tend to shop and eat near the Patong beach area," said CTC Travel spokesman Alicia Seah.

Mr Adrian Phoon, an engineer who visited Phuket in August, said he had not heard of SuperCheap and did not visit the area. Phuket media reported that the sprawling, warehouse-like store was popular with lower-income residents for its bargains.

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