Dozens die as hotel in Thailand collapses: Rescue teams struggle in darkness and rains to find survivors in the rubble

NAKHON RATCHASIMA - Rescue workers struggled in darkness and in heavy rains yesterday to bring out the living and the dead from the ruins of a Thai hotel which collapsed, killing and injuring scores of people and trapping dozens in the rubble.

Officials said the death toll had reached 33, but a private emergency foundation at the scene put it at more than 50. The dead included one Englishwoman, identified as Janet Mawdsley from Newcastle. Mrs Mawdsley's husband John was said by hospital staff to be in serious condition.

Last night, when rescue operations were briefly suspended because of rain, officials estimated that 70 people were still missing in the ruins of the Royal Plaza Hotel in Nakhon Ratchasima, 250 km (150 miles) north- east of Bangkok and off the beaten tourist track. Later two women were brought out alive from the rubble and three more bodies were removed. Nurses at one hospital said one of the dead was a Japanese woman.

'We can still hear voices,' a police rescue worker said as dusk settled over the site and big lights were brought in to aid the rescue workers. They said bottles of oxygen and water had been passed down to isolated groups of survivors.

While the operation was temporarily suspended, officials met to discuss how to proceed. 'There are so many dead bodies we can see, but we are concentrating our efforts on helping the living,' Police Sergeant Suwat Pongsuwan said. An official at a private emergency foundation said more than 50 bodies had been retrieved from the debris of the hotel.

More than 250 teachers and were attending a seminar at the hotel when it collapsed. 'I thought it was an earthquake,' said Malee Sukya, a 36-year- old teacher. 'I saw the window crack and then it broke. I tried to jump out but the building collapsed right away. Everything was black.' Ms Malee, who sustained injuries to her stomach, back and mouth, said the first rescue worker to reach her seemed to be leaving when she shouted: 'I have three children,' and he came back.

The building was a two-storey structure to which four additional storeys had been added, officials said. An additional floor was being put on when the building collapsed. According to local radio reports, the engineer in charge of building the new storey was being detained by police.

'There were people on each floor when it happened and they are now either trapped or buried in debris,' said Pornchai Chitsuwansin, a spokesman for the Ruam Katanyu Foundation, an emergency group. 'The gas smell and the fear of triggering further collapse have slowed rescue workers as they try to do their jobs.'

More than 270 people were injured, officials said, and hospitals issued appeals for blood donations. Mr Pornchai said people being rescued and bodies retrieved at dusk had been on the third floor of the hotel when it collapsed on Friday morning. Those who were on lower floors remain trapped.

'We expect the death toll to rise, definitely past the 100 figure tonight,' Mr Pornchai said. 'There are so many people trapped in what is reduced to a one-and-a-half-storey structure from an original seven-storey building.'

More than 60 employees of the Shell oil company were also attending a meeting in the hotel. Forty others were attending a third meeting.

Channel Nine television reported that 20 foreigners were staying at the 134-room hotel, 10 Americans, seven Japanese, one Swede, one Taiwanese and one Chinese.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all