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Maitri Inthusut, Phuket Governor has announced that nobody died in the SuperCheap inferno that took grip last Wednesday and said that all of the missing people had been found. After appointing himself the single source of information regarding alleged deaths he was backed by Phuket Provincial Police Commander Ong-art Phiwruangnont, who warned that anybody spreading false rumors about deaths during the fire would face swift police action.
Last Friday investigators searching the scorched remains of the supermarket said they had not discovered any bodies but called for rakes as the search continued. Governor Maitri noted that the fire area would be sealed off for forty five days or until investigators from Region 8 Police Forensics had finished their investigations.
During the blaze that sent a cloud of black smoke over a kilometer into the air every fire truck in Phuket was called to the scene as well as trucks from nearby provinces. The store was still open when the fire broke out at around 9pm and bystanders reported hearing screams for help from inside the building.
An early report suggested the fire was started by a short circuit and it quickly spread to the firecracker section of the store, another report suggested that the short circuit had ignited gas tanks.
SuperCheap is located on a 30 Rai plot that was once home to a factory. The store is the legacy of the Anantajaroonwong family and had grown from a rickety old warehouse supported by wooden pillars and a corrugated iron roof into a bustling supermarket with daily sales of over ten million baht a day. The business expanded throughout the region with twenty five branches in Phuket alone. SuperCheap sell various goods at highly discounted prices, but offer no luxury items, rather placing emphasis on essential household commodities. SuperCheap employ around seven hundred workers from neighbouring countries, who also encourage Phukets immigrant workforce to shop in the store.
After the blaze there were eleven missing person reports but ten were quickly found. Only one person remained on the list, Thanaporn Sammanit, 46, whose friends were unsure if she was shopping in the store at the time of the blaze. 18 year old Siriporn Khunpetthongrat was working in the store on the night of the blaze but was not on the missing list until later when her mother told the Phuket Gazette that she had filed a missing persons report. “I have reported her missing to officials, I will go and check with them again this afternoon” she said, “ I have not yet found her, I have tried calling her on the phone but I have been unable to reach her”.
The Phuket Gazette called Anong Khunpetthongrat, the mother of the eighteen year old girl, after the statement made by Gov Maitri that confirmed all of the missing people had been found. The woman confirmed that she had been reunited with her daughter but very quickly hung up and was unwilling to take any further calls or discuss her daughters whereabouts during the time she had been out of contact.
A team of Region 8 Forensic officers sifted through the site in less than five days to look for human remains over and area of 30 rai before Gov Maitri announced that they had gathered all of the evidence they needed. The team narrowed the origin of the fire down to a 1200 square meter area about two hundred meters from the main entrance of the complex. The evidence has now been taken to Surat Thani for further investigation.
SuperCheap representatives reported that sixty percent of the staff who worked at the store has rejoined the workforce. Those who had yet to register to re-claim their jobs with the company had up to November the 1st to do so. They also announced that one hundred Burmese workers have resigned. There was no mention from the representatives about all of the staff at the store being accounted for.
Suwimon Saelim, acting director of the Phuket office of the state-run Insurance Commission, confirmed the fully insured megashop is covered for over 600 million baht in insurance payouts.
“KSK Insurance can pay out up to 248 million baht in fire insurance, 21 million baht for insured machinery and 3 million baht to injured people who are not on staff,” Ms Suwimon said. “Another policy under Thai Insurance Co Ltd offers coverage of up to 372 million baht for fire insurance.”
Ms Anongnart has said that at this stage it is impossible to estimate the cost of the damage.
No insurance money has been set aside to cover any staff who come forward with injuries or for damage done to neighbouring houses.
A third company, Crawford Insurance from the United States, has been hired to survey damage to surrounding structures.
“We received 67 complaints for damage caused to houses nearby and a shopper who paid for products, but was unable to retrieve them before the blaze,” Col Peerayuth said.
It has been announced that most environmental threats that could have been posed by the disaster have now passed.