Fire at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market Kills 1,000 Animals

Around 1,000 animals perished in a fire at Bangkok’s renowned open-air Chatuchak market early Tuesday, which destroyed nearly 100 shops.

Birds, dogs, cats, and snakes were among the animals burned to death in their cages in the pet zone, which also housed rats, pythons, and geckos. Authorities attribute the blaze to an electrical short circuit, noting that no human casualties or injuries have been reported.

The incident has reignited calls for the closure of the pet zone, which has faced longstanding criticism over the poor living conditions of the animals, leading to high rates of disease and death.

Chatuchak market, one of Southeast Asia’s largest markets, features tens of thousands of shops packed into narrow lanes. It is Thailand’s largest and most famous weekend market, attracting nearly 200,000 tourists every Saturday and Sunday. However, the pet section is open throughout the week, covering about four of the market’s 27 sections and often drawing controversy.

The pet zone is subject to regular inspections. Amporn Wannasut, a shop owner, rushed to the market after being alerted to the fire. “When I got here, everything was gone, all burned down,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything because it was dark inside as well. I couldn’t help them at all. They were all gone.”

Wannasut, 42, sold turtles, pythons, and king snakes, among other reptiles, as pets. “I don’t even know what to do next. I think we have to start all over again but I don’t know how,” she added. “I froze some of the dead snakes so that we can calculate how much [money] we lost.”

Ryn Jirenuwat/ BBC A pile of boxes that housed snakes in one of the shops damaged by the fire in the market

The fire damaged most of the 118 shops in the pet zone, which spans about 1,400 square meters (15,000 square feet), according to a preliminary inspection.

When the BBC arrived at the market on Tuesday afternoon, shop owners were lined up to register their requests for compensation. Many looked distraught, with several in tears.

Amid the devastation, some people were taking selfies in front of the destroyed shops, despite police warnings to avoid the area due to the risk of collapse.

Recounting her narrow escape, a shop owner named Meecha told the online news outlet Thaiger that she was awakened by the animals’ cries from the loft above her shop. “Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe,” said Meecha, who managed to climb through a window to safety.

While some shop owners live in the market, it remains unclear how many were present when the fire broke out.

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