Fire at famous Bangkok market kills 1,000 animals

Article written by Kelly Ng & Ryn Jirenuwat
Originally published by (Jun 11, 2024)

Around 1,000 animals were killed in a fire in Bangkok's famous open-air Chatuchak market early Tuesday, gutting nearly 100 shops.

Birds, dogs, cats and snakes were burned to death in their cages in the pet zone, which also included rats, pythons and geckos.

Authorities claimed that an electrical short circuit caused the blaze, but there have been no reports of fatalities or injuries.

The incident prompted renewed calls for authorities to shut down the pet zone, which has long been criticised for the animals' poor living conditions and has reportedly led to high rates of disease and death.

With tens of thousands of shops crowding narrow lanes, Chatuchak is one of Southeast Asia's biggest markets.

It's also the largest and best-known of Thailand's weekend markets. It claims to draw nearly 200,000 tourists every Saturday and Sunday.

The fire killed the animals as it ripped through more than a 100 shops. Credit: Getty Images

But the portion of the market selling pets is open through the week. This accounts for about four of the 27 sections in the Chatuchak market and is arguably its most controversial trade.

This zone of the market is subjected to regular inspections.

"When I got here, everything was gone, all burned down," says Amporn Wannasut, a shop owner who rushed to the market after being alerted to the fire.

"I couldn’t do anything because it was dark inside as well. I couldn’t help them at all. They were all gone."

The 42-year-old sold turtles, pythons, and king snakes, among other reptiles, as pets.

A dead bird and reptiles are pictured following the blaze - which damaged most of the 118 shops in the pet zone. Image Credit: Reuters

"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 adds. "I froze some of the dead snakes so that we could calculate how much [money] we lost."

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

When the BBC arrived at the market on Tuesday afternoon, shop owners were standing in line to register their requests for compensation. Some of them looked distraught and several were crying.

There were also people taking selfies in front of the destroyed shops, even as police officers warned them not to go near the affected structures, which could collapse.

The remains of a Ball Python snake can be seen inside a plastic box that melted during the fire. Image Credit: EPA

Meecha, a shop owner, recounted her narrow escape to online news source Thaiger, saying that the cries of the animals in the loft above her store had woken her up.

"Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe," said Meecha, who climbed through a window to safety.

Some shop owners do live in the market, but it's unclear how many were there when the fire broke out.

International wildlife charity, Animal Survival International (ASI), strongly condemned the trade of captive animals in Asia and in other parts of the world, where animals are kept caged in abysmal conditions, traded like commodities, and used for human entertainment. Many, it said, were illegally smuggled into the country. "We urge the Thai authorities to take a stand against the abhorrent cruelty to animals at so-called "pet shops" and markets across Asia, like Chatuchak market and countless others like it," it said. "There is no place for this needless animal suffering."


Banner Caption: Flames can be seen ripping through Chatuchak market, located in Thailand's capital city,
in the early hours of Tuesday morning.  Banner Credit: ViralPress


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