100 million baht damage as fire destroys 8 buildings near Walking Street

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Fire ripped through Pattaya’s Walking Street area, setting off an inferno that destroyed eight buildings, damaged up to 20, and caused an estimated 100 million baht in destruction.

A single firefighter was injured in the Oct. 22 afternoon blaze near Soi 16 and Pratamnak Road. Firefighters needed over three and a half hours to gain control of the conflagration that began behind the Abu Saeed Restaurant at Pratamnak Road at Soi 16 near the Marine Plaza Hotel.

Investigators believe sparks from welding equipment being used on the restaurant’s roof set off an explosion in a storage room for paint thinner and other chemicals at the adjacent Rattakorn Trading Co., a construction-supplies depot.

Twenty-five fire and emergency vehicles from across the Eastern Seaboard responded to the firestorm, which was consuming the four-story Rattakorn structure by the time they arrived. Pressurized tanks for gas, oxygen and cans of paint and thinner accelerated the destruction, causing loud bangs as they exploded.

Hampered by the exploding tanks, firefighters couldn’t stop the fire from jumping to the adjacent Charoenpong Hardware. Small explosions continued, as the TOA Paint dealer’s collections of cans detonated. Emergency workers tried to pull gas canisters out of the burning shop to minimize damage, but flames soon leaped to a Kasikorn Bank currency-exchange booth, the Abu Nawaas Restaurant & Hotel and four other buildings.

Pattaya Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department officials called in reinforcements from Sattahip and Sriracha, who reported they could see smoke from the blaze 10 kilometers away.

Chonburi Police Station commander Lt. Gen. Khatcha Thatsart took control of the scene, shutting down Pratamnak Road from South Road to the 3rd Road overpass. Nearby hotels evacuated after the back wall Rattakorn Trading collapsed. One firefighter was injured and transported to Banglamung Hospital.

About 3 hours after it began, the fire was controlled and authorities set up a perimeter around the scene as investigators began looking for the cause of the blaze. Firefighters worked throughout the night drowning the last flames and embers. The northern end of Pratamnak remained closed for a day as investigators sifted through the rubble. Most of the damaged buildings quickly were declared unsafe and must be demolished.

Khatcha blasted Pattaya zoning laws that allowed such combustible materials to be stored so close to the city’s main tourist district, hotels and restaurants.