90 escape tower blaze

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The Independent Online
Helicopter crews battled for nearly four hours to rescue more than 90 workers trapped when flames engulfed a 36-storey building in the centre of Bangkok yesterday.

Three people died when two explosions rocked the new hotel and office complex, two of them after jumping from the seventh floor to escape the flames. Another victim survived the leap but was seriously ill in hospital last night.

Workers said they heard two explosions from the seventh floor of the President Tower where colleagues were installing air-conditioners. One of those rescued said: "I was on the eighth floor when I heard two big explosions. I rushed down to the staircase and found many people jammed there. Many of them rushed to the top floor."

The helicopters, hampered by dense smoke and strong winds, took turns dropping ladders and safety-harnesses to workers, who were then winched to safety. Sakorn Sridee, 28, who was on the 33rd floor when the fire began, said: "People were so frightened, some of them sounded like they had gone mad ... About an hour later we were picked up."

A colleague, Noi, 45, who was among those huddled on the top floor, said some fainted from the intense heat and had to be revived. More than a dozen others scrambled to safety using ropes to climb down from the middle of the building, which was being decorated.

All but six of the 93 people taken to hospital were later discharged. Casualties were kept down because light Sunday road traffic allowed emergency vehicles to rush to the scene.