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Loy Krathong is normally celebrated by the floating of Krathongs on rivers and in the ocean, but this year many people chose to mark the occasion by releasing low flying balloon lanterns instead. This has left numerous Thai people complaining about the damage the balloons cause and two families were left homeless after the lanterns set fire to their houses which subsequently burnt down.
One of those houses was a shop-house at a market in Pathum Thani province. Teams of firefighters spent 30 minutes putting out the blaze, which Mr. Thanin Phanuwattanawong, the son of the shop owner, said was started on Sunday night by a balloon lantern that landed into the store.
“We tried to put the the fire, but it spread very fast, because there are foam products in the storeroom”, said Mr. Thanin.
The other establishment believed to have been burned down the similar cause was a wooden house in Mae Sod district of Tak province. The owner, Ms. Rasmi Naengyaem, 45, said she was attending Loy Krathong festival nearby when she was informed about the fire via her mobile phone.
Ms. Phew, a Myanma national, alerted Ms. Rasmi when she spotted a lit balloon lantern falling into the house. However, the house was already completely engulfed in flame by the time she returned, Ms. Rasmi said.
Fire lanterns caused damage all over the country as they landed in fields, parks, on electric wires and cars. Many Thai people have shared photographs of the damage they have caused on social network sites.
Officials at Lampang Airport in Lampang province said they had retrieved 108 such balloons which landed on the 1.9 kilometre-long runway of the airport throughout the night. Around 20 more balloons fell down around the airport vicinity.
An official said the balloons would have disrupted the plane landing and departing, so a number of ground staff had been placed along the runway to keep it clean from balloons.
The authorities have advised against release of the balloons in urban areas, but the instruction has been largely unheeded. Lantern balloons were openly sold – and released – in many venues where celebration of Loy Krathong festival were held, sometimes under the noses of law enforcement officials.
Ms. Benchasai Keeyapaj, deputy spokeswoman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), said lantern balloons caused 6 small fires in Bangkok that were quickly brought under control.
Officials are drafting regulation which would require balloon lantern manufacturers to comply with safety standard, such as limiting the fuel underneath the balloons to last no more than 4-8 minutes, depending on their size, according to Ms. Benchasai.
She said there is currently no legislation that specifically regulated the sales and purchases lantern balloons.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pichai Kriangwattanasiri, director of BMA′s disaster prevention and relief office, has rare good news concerning Loy Krathong as no drowning were reported unlike last year when several people lost their lives in the water.