POLICE ARE investigating whether the two explosions heard shortly before fire started at the Surat Thani Cooperative on Friday night was an accident or an arson attack.
Witnesses said they had heard two explosions shortly before the fire started at about 11pm on Friday. It remained unclear whether the loud noise was from an exploding power transformer.
Damage from the blaze that engulfed the cooperative in the southern province of Surat Thani has been estimated at Bt50 million, according to its manager Phisan Morpraman. He said yesterday that its building and merchandises have been damaged in the fire.
The cooperative is covered by a Bt280-million insurance policy, with an additional insurance of Bt30 million against arson and fire incidents, according to the manager.
There were no reports of injuries in connection with the incident, which took place when the cooperative was closed.
“It’s still inconclusive now if the fire was caused by an explosion or whether it was an arson attack,” said an official who declined to be identified.
Police officers from the Scientific Crime Detection Division inspected the site of the fire yesterday. Aerial photographs were also taken from a crane of parts of the building that could not be reached. The roof of the building collapsed and the structure became unstable after the fire.
The fire was extinguished yesterday, several hours after it started. More than 20 fire engines were involved in the operation.
The building that houses the cooperative’s main store and food court has been completely damaged by the blaze.
Surat Thani Governor Chatpong Chatphuti said that he has order increased security at major tourist destinations, community areas and important locations in the province following the fire and the car-bomb attack on Samui Island, off Surat Thani.
He said police were investigating to determine the cause of the fire at the coooperative, adding that it remained unclear whether it was due to an electric short circuit or something else.
More than 100 policemen have been sent to the cooperative as part of increased security. The cooperative’s compound houses a central rubber market where more than 30 tonnes of natural rubber sheets are being stored.
Extra protection is needed for this rubber stock in case of another fire, local officials said.
The Surat Thani Cooperative is an important landmark in the southern province, serving as a vehicle rest centre, with restaurants, souvenir shops, retail and wholesale markets.
Sales during public holidays normally amount to some Bt2 million a day with annual sales turnover of approximately Bt300 million, the National News Bureau of Thailand reported.