Thousands Affected By Phuket Mall Blaze

(17 October) Over 3,500 people lost their jobs and six households were damaged after a large fire destroyed the famous shopping mall of Phuket province.

The destruction of SuperCheap, a major retail and wholesale mall, is also estimated to have cost 100 million baht at the very least.

Rescue teams from Phuket and the neighbouring Phang-Nga provinces took 13 hours to control the fire, which reportedly broke out at 21.00 on the night of 16 October.

According to witnesses, an explosion was heard before the fire started. The time of the incident also suggested the possibility that many people were inside the mall during the incident, as the mall is said to operate 7.00 to 23.00 daily.

Initial reports suggest that at least 700 – 1,000 people work at the mall. However, further reports indicate that at least 3,500 workers would be affected by the fire.

Phuket’s provincial authority, in collaboration with Ministry of Labour (MOL), has promised to help the workers to find new jobs if the mall decides to terminate their contracts. A registration desk was set to allow workers to sign up for compensation and job-hunting services. According to the MOL, there are currently 1,600 positions available in the province.

Raksa subdistrict municipality mayor, Mr. Phudit Raksarat, said that the municipality is preparing THB 5 million as a compensation budget for those who suffered from the incident, after initial reports indicate that 6 households were damaged by the blaze.

During his visit this morning, Phuket Governor, Mr. Maitree Intusoot, ordered his officers to set up a public relations centre to receive complaints and assistance request filed by locals. So far, two people came to file the application.

Three people were reported missing as the news of the blaze emerged. One of the missing people was later located, while other two are still unreachable. However, the officials have not confirmed any fatality.

Around 500 police officers and volunteers were appointed to patrol the area to ensure security. Officers said they will stay vigilant of any thieves who may take advantages of the fire to rob the mall, as there are gold dealer shops and cash machines inside the mall.

The police also asked netizens to stop spreading a photo on the social network which was alleged to be the picture of the incident, including reports about 11 dead in the fire.

According to police, the picture was inaccurate, as it was a photo of the fire at Bangkok′s Zantika Pub in 2009. The police also insisted they cannot yet enter the scene, but will do as soon as they can, and that the report of any death toll is unconfirmed.

The 12-acre SuperCheap Mall is described to be one of the few Thai-owned malls in the island province where much of the business is co-owned by foreign conglomerates. The mall started its operation in 1995, and generates annual revenue of approximately THB 3,000 – 4,000 million.

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