The SuperCheap discount store complex in Muang district of Phuket, gutted in a fire on Wednesday night, has been declared a disaster area.
A man looks at the charred ruins of Phuket’s SuperCheap store, which was gutted by fire yesterday. The blaze broke out on Wednesday night in Muang district. ACHADTAYA CHUENNIRAN
A centre has been set up to trace people missing as a result of the blaze.
Phuket governor Maitree Inthusut said initial surveys found the badly burned buildings at SuperCheap were unsafe.
The store complex as well as its surrounding area, spanning more than 35 rai in tambon Rasada Muang district, have been declared off-limits to unauthorised personnel. The store comprises a warehouse covering more than 4,000 square metres, a sales building of 1,600 sq m and living quarters for employees.
Police were alerted to the blaze which razed the store buildings made from wood and steel on Thepkasatri Road about 9.30pm on Wednesday.
The fire broke out half an hour before the store normally closes.
Shoppers and staff ran for their lives and 48 fire engines were mobilised to douse the flames. No injuries were reported, according to the governor.
The blaze was brought under control between 1-2am yesterday. Police had to guard the store to prevent looting.
Mr Maitree said the cause of the fire has not been established and police did not report any casualties yesterday.
The fire also damaged two private homes, a garage and three vehicles around the store.
Provincial authorities set up a centre in front of the store to receive requests for assistance and reports of missing persons. Affected people turned up yesterday to report damage to their property and missing persons.
According to deputy Phuket governor Sommai Preechasilp, the store employed 2,736 people, 700 of them migrant workers.
If they are laid off, the employer must pay them compensation. The workers can seek help from the provincial employment assistance centre.
Suthep Sukprasert, a 46-year-old parking supervisor at SuperCheap, said he lived next door to the complex in a rented house. Luckily, the fire did not spread to his home. He had worked at SuperCheap for 12 years and the fire started after he returned home.
"I've grown attached to the SuperCheap store. I want to continue working here if it is restored," he said.
He said he worried a lot about losing his job.
"I am waiting for the store owner to tell us about his plans. I am sorry for all the workers who have to go though this uncertainty because all have burdens and do not know what to do with their lives," Mr Suthep said.
The Department of Insurance reported the SuperCheap store was insured with two companies and its combined insurance coverage amounts to 620 million baht. Authorities initially estimate damage from the fire at about 40 million baht.