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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dozens die in Bangkok nightclub

The aftermath of the Bangkok fire

At least 59 people have been killed in a fire in a nightclub in the Thai capital, Bangkok, police say.

More than 100 others were injured in the blaze, which broke out as people celebrated the New Year.

Bodies wrapped in white cotton were laid out on the pavement in front of the club, named as the Santika, in central Bangkok's Thong Lor district.

Police said they were investigating what sparked the fire in the club, popular with both Thais and foreigners.

The blaze was now under control but the death toll could rise, a fire official said.

'Spread quickly'

"We were all dancing and suddenly there was a big flame that came out of the front of the stage and everybody was running away," one woman told Reuters news agency.

Fire official inspects remains of Santika nightclub, Bangkok, Thailand, 1 January 2009
Police are investigating what sparked the fire in the club

Local reports blamed either fireworks or an electrical fault for the blaze, which happened just after midnight.

Andrew Long, a British man living in Bangkok, told the BBC that survivors leaving the club said fire broke out on the stage after fireworks were lit.

Another witness, Tos Maddy, said he heard what he thought was an electrical explosion.

"Everything went boom and people started running. The fire went very quickly," he told Reuters.

The club had only one main exit, at the front, and many people had been trapped inside, reports said.

A policeman said those killed died from burns, smoke inhalation and injuries received during a stampede to escape.

Most of the bodies were found in the basement of the two-storey building, rescue workers told the Associated Press news agency.

Those injured were being treated at the nearby Bangkok Hospital.

The club was very large, capable of holding several hundred people, reports the BBC's Jonathan Head from Bangkok.

Thailand's capital is renowned for its nightlife, but many clubs are loosely regulated and often have very poor fire safety systems, our correspondent adds.