(18 November) Numerous Thais are left complaining of the menace caused by low-flying balloon lanterns released throughout the Loy Krathong celebration last night.
Two houses are reported to have been burned down due to the lanterns, which resemble rudimentary hot air balloons, while a number of incidents with lesser damages has been reported in many parts of the country, police said.
One of the razed properties was a shop-house at a market in Pathum Thani province. Teams of firefighters spent 30 minutes putting out the blaze, which Mr. Thanin Phanuwattanawong, the son of the shop owner, said was started last night by a balloon lantern that landed into the store.
“We tried to put out the the fire, but it spread very fast, because there are foam products in the storeroom”, said Mr. Thanin.
The other establishment believed to have been burned down the similar cause was a wooden house in Mae Sod district of Tak province. The owner, Ms. Rasmi Naengyaem, 45, said she was attending the Loy Krathong festival nearby when she was informed about the fire via her mobile phone.
Ms. Phew, a Myanma national, alerted Ms. Rasmi when she spotted a lit balloon lantern falling into the house. However, the house was already completely engulfed in flame by the time she returned, Ms. Rasmi said.
Investigation for both incidents continue.
Elsewhere in the country, the lantern balloons also caused minor damages, as they landed in the fields, parks, and electric poles. Netizens on the social network shared stories and photos of damages caused by the balloons.
Officials at Lampang Airport in Lampang province said they had retrieved 108 such balloons which landed on the 1.9 kilometre-long runway of the airport throughout the night. Around 20 more balloons fell down around the airport vicinity.
An official said the balloons would have disrupted the planes landing and departing, so a number of ground staff had been placed along the runway to keep it clean from balloons.
Although Loy Krathong is more often associated with floating of Krathong onto the rivers and canals, the release of these hot air balloons, a practice which originated in the northern region of the country, has become increasingly popular among urbanites in recent years.
The authorities have advised against releasing of the balloons in urban areas, but the instruction has been largely unheeded. Lantern balloons were openly sold – and released – in many venues where celebration of Loy Krathong festival were held, sometimes under the gazes of law enforcement officials.
Ms. Benchasai Keeyapaj, deputy spokeswoman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), said lantern balloons have caused 6 small fires in Bangkok last night, which were quickly brought under control.
Officials are drafting regulations which would require balloon lantern manufacturers to comply with safety standard, such as limiting the fuel underneath the balloons to last no more than 4-8 minutes, depending on their size, according to Ms. Benchasai.
She said there is currently no legislation that specifically regulate the sales and purchases lantern balloons.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pichai Kriangwattanasiri, director of BMA′s disaster prevention and relief office, has rare good news concerning Loy Krathong: according to the official, no drowning has been reported in Bangkok throughout the festival, in contrast with large number of drownings in previous years.
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