Lt Col Sanit Nukong of the Phuket City Police and firefighters from Koh Kaew Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor) were called to scene, on the southbound lanes opposite the Isuzu showroom, at 6pm.
By the side of the road were 22 Chinese tourists along with the tour guides and driver, totalling 29 people who were thankfully no longer on the bus.
Kusoldharm rescue workers were first on the scene and used fire extinguishers to battle the flames until the firefighters arrived, but to no avail.
The better-equipped firefighters, however, took just 15 minutes to douse the blaze, and spent another 20 minutes soaking the vehicle to ensure the fire did not flare up again.
Bus driver Prasert Intarat explained that he was carrying the tourists from Takua Thung in Phang Nga back to the Phuket Pearl Hotel on Montri Rd in Phuket Town when he smelt smoke coming from the air conditioning.
Mr Prasert explained that he stopped the Phattalung-registered bus, emblazoned with “Tidarat Kongmuan” on its side, to let the tourists and their guides off so they could wait for another bus that had been called to transport them safely to their hotel.
“I kept driving [to take the bus back to its depot], but I got only about 50 metres down the road when smoke started coming out of the air-conditioning vents.
“I stopped the bus again and opened the emergency door to let the smoke out, but then I could see sparks coming out from the aircon, and then there were flames,” he recalled.
“I used a fire extinguisher but the fire grew too strong, too quickly. I tried to open the main aircon vent to get to the fire, but I could not remove cover because of screws, so I got off the bus and disconnected battery and called for help,” Mr Intarat said.
Col Sanit said police believe fire start from electrical short circuit, but were still investigating in order to confirm the exact cause of the fire.
Meanwhile, the 22 tourists, travelling on a “Top Hill” tour company tour, were safely delivered to their hotel.