Saturday, March 10, 2012

Illegal modifications fingered as cause of deadly hotel blaze

The fire at the Grand Park Avenue Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22 which killed one person and injured two dozen others on Thursday evening may have been caused by illegal building modifications, Bangkok Deputy Governor Teerachon Manomaiphibul said.
Guests pack their bags and leave the Grand Park Avenue Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22, where a deadly fire broke out on Thursday night. One Russian woman has been confirmed dead after the blaze. APICHART JINAKUL
Mr Teerachon said this suspicion was based on his observations of the hotel's banquet room, where the fire started.
''I suspected there might have been illegal modifications to the building in converting a parking garage into a banquet room, because the room had a low ceiling and was also connected to a parking space,''said Mr Teerachon.
He said he also noticed that there were no sprinklers installed in the room.
Mr Teerachon said the hotel had applied for a modification permit in 1992 and was granted it in 1994.
The Public Works Department would look at the hotel's floor plan to see if any building codes had been violated.
Pitchaya Chantranuwat, head of the building safety sub-committee of the Engineering Institute of Thailand, said the hotel's floor plan showed there were no doors separating the main staircase from the hallways, which allowed smoke to spread quickly through the building.
Mr Pitchaya also said the hotel had only one fire escape, which was too narrow, making evacuations difficult. The 2001 building code requires all hallways longer than 10 metres to have at least one fire escape.
Pol Lt Col Thanakorn Konkaew, deputy superintendent of Thong Lor police, said the fire originated in the banquet room on the fifth floor of the hotel. The room was not being used at the time.
''There were signs of an explosion near the [electrical] cutout,'' he said.
The blaze, which was reported around 9.40pm, continued for about an hour.
Dr Suwinai Budsarakhamwong, director of Kluaynamthai Hospital 1, yesterday said a Russian woman in her 30s was killed in the blaze. She has not yet been named. Pol Lt Col Thanakorn added another 24 people were injured.
Thong Lor police superintendent Pol Col Rattasak Saksalam said the police may press charges against anyone found guilty of negligence causing the fire.
He said the police would also look into whether the hotel had violated the 1992 building codes it was subject to when making its modifications in 1994.
Meanwhile, Mr Teerachon said 50 inspection teams would survey 50 major buildings around Bangkok starting next week. Any found not meeting building codes would be given until Sept 30 to attain the set standards. The owners of any buildings which do not pass inspections on Oct 1 would face up to three months' imprisonment and a fine of 60,000 baht, he said.