At least 59 people were killed and more than 200 injured in a New Year's Eve
nightclub fire in Bangkok, as the rest of Asia welcomed 2009 with subdued
Thousands of Thais bid farewell to a politically tumultuous
2008 outside a mall in downtown Bangkok. But minutes after welcoming the new
year, firefighters battled flames and rescuers scrambled to pull people from a
burning nightclub in another part of town.
Club Santika, popular with
young Thais and tourists, was gutted. Inside, charred shoes and personal
belongings were scattered near a staircase as scores of clubgoers rushed to
escape the flames. Officials say the fire may have started from fireworks used
in the New Year's party, called "Goodbye Santika".
Officials say many of
the victims died from severe burns, suffocation and from the stampede. Officials
say the club had only one door for the public.
Thai Justice Minister
Pirapan Salirathavibhaga surveyed the damage Thursday and told VOA the
government will file charges against those responsible for the
"We are going with our investigation. I will look after the
investigation because it is about the reputation of our country," said Pirapan.
"I heard a lot of foreigners died and injured."
Tragedy struck too in the
Philippines, where at least 22 people were injured in a grenade blast in a park
in General Santos city. Around the country, nearly 300 people were injured by
exploding firecrackers, a common incidence in the Philippines during the New
Year celebrations. On New Year's Eve, the country's health secretary went on TV
brandishing a surgical saw to warn against possible amputations resulting from
Security was tightened in India, following the Mumbai
terrorist attacks last month that killed more than 170 people.
were calm in Beijing, where state TV carried a New Year's concert. The Chinese
mark the Lunar New Year later this month.
In Sydney, more than a million
people flocked to see fireworks over Sydney Bridge. Hong Kong also greeted 2009
with fireworks over Victoria Harbor, but as in other cities in Asia,
celebrations were subdued compared with previous years because of the global
economic slump. Many people in the region are bracing for job cuts because local
economies are expected to contract this year.