Styrofoam 'sped up Tiger blaze'
PHUKET: Excessive use of flammable material along with modifications to the building may have contributed to the severity of the deadly fire at the Tiger Discotheque early on Friday morning.
Monday 20 August 2012, 05:50PM
This afternoon (August 20), led by Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha, officials from related authorities and architecture and engineering specialists inspected the Tiger Discotheque to try to establish what caused the fire and caused the deaths of four people.
After the building inspection, the President of the Safety in Architecture section of the Association of Siamese Architects, Bundit Pradabsook, said 20 per cent of the surface of the discotheque, inside and out, was decorated with expanded polystyrene (EPS, or styrofoam), a highly inflammable material that would have spread the fire more quickly.
The party noted six fire exits, complying with building regulation. However, they also noted that the stairs leading down from some of the fire exits did not reach the ground.
According to new regulations for entertainment venues brought in in March this year, flammable materials such as EPS must not cover more than 10 per cent of building’s surface.
The regulations were brought in as a result of the fire at the Santika Club in Bangkok in the early hours of New Year’s day in 2009, which killed 66 people and injured another 222.
The regulations include maximum occupancy, with no more than one person per square meter allowed in a night club or bar.
After the new regulations were announced in March this year, entertainment venue were given 180 days (in other words, until next month) to make the necessary modifications such as cutting down on the use of flammable materials, the number of fire exits and maximum occupancy.
“It’s the responsibility of the authorities to notify entertainment venues about the new regulations, but it’s up to the operators of the venues to research and understand the rules, and to comply,” said Mr Bundit.
“It’s beyond our brief today to conclude whether the building was modified in terms of structure or use. But modification to a building can also causes fires. When the functions of the building change, human activities can cause an increase of the heat inside the building.”
An example of this, he said, might be the use of spotlights and additional power if the building were modified for use as a night club.
While it was beyond Mr Bundit’s brief to comment on modifications, the Chief of the Technical Section of Patong Municipality, Sub Lt Lerdpong Tanamunset, said that the building housing Tiger Discotheque had been modified.
He said the owner of the building had originally applied in 1999 for a permit from the municipality to build “a two-storey semi-commercial-residential building”.
Later, the building was modified as a discotheque and bar complex. Sub Lt Lerdpong said the municipality had not received an application for either the modification to the building or the change of use.
But he noted that the master plan for the building was among many kept on the ground floor of the Municipality building, which was hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami, resulting in the destruction of many of those records.
The modifications included the addition of fire exits and the decoration of the walls.
However, Sema Sinchai, General Manager of Sara Entertainment Company, which operated Tiger, insisted that the use of the building was definitely legal.
“I can’t comment in depth right now,” Mr Sema said. “After we receive the results from Institute of Forensic Science, we will comment further and show evidence that proves the legality [of our operation].”
Mr Sema said the Sara Entertainment Co would pay B1 million compensation to the families of each person who had died in the inferno. Those who were injured would have their medical fees covered and receive compensation of B5,000.
He said that the company has already been in touch with about 20 of the injured.