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Thai market fire consumes hundreds of caged animals

In News, World
June 11, 2024

More than 100 pet stalls have been damaged in Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Weekend Market.

A fire has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of animals caged at a famous market in Thailand.

The blaze ripped through the pet section of Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok on Tuesday morning, the city government reported.

The fire is believed to have started in the ornamental fish zone in Sri Somrat Market, adjacent to the bigger Chatuchak, at about 4am (21:00 GMT), according to Tivakorn Prongseng, a police inspector investigating the case.

More than 100 pet stalls were damaged across about 1,300 square metres (14,000 square feet) before the flames were brought under control an hour later. There are no reports of human casualties.

A shop owner called Meecha told online news outlet Thaiger that she was awakened by the animals’ cries, according to the BBC.

“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 is unclear how many were on site when the fire broke out, the BBC said.

A firefighter rescues a bird, following a fire in which exotic animals, reptiles and pets perished at Chatuchak Weekend Market, in Bangkok
A firefighter rescues a bird, following a fire in which exotic animals, reptiles and pets perished, at Chatuchak Weekend Market [Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters]

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt and other officials were seen at the site inspecting the charred shops. Metal gates were being broken down in order to bring out animals that survived the fire.

Officials said they are still working on estimating the cost of damage, and affected shop owners could register for compensation.

This is not the first fire to break out at the market. In 2013, at least 20 shops were destroyed in a blaze in the fashion section.

Welfare and trafficking

The sprawling Chatuchak is a top tourist draw, but also a popular shopping destination for residents. It has hundreds of shops and stalls selling items ranging from food and drink to clothing, furniture, plants, and books.

The pet zone has long provoked criticism for the poor conditions in which some of the animals are kept.

Wildlife organisations have also accused some vendors of involvement in the trafficking of rare and endangered species, such as turtles, tortoises and birds.

Thailand has tight penalties for wildlife traffickers and regularly conducts raids aimed at cracking down on the illegal trade.

Under current legislation, violators face a maximum of four years in jail or a fine not exceeding 40,000 baht ($1,000).

However, conservationists have claimed that many traffickers avoid prison terms due to their connections to senior figures in the government or the military.

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