Fire at notorious Bangkok market kills 1,000 animals

Thai rescuer carries a survived chicken - Fire at notorious Bangkok market kills 1,000 animals
Some animals, such as this chicken, were rescued from the pet zone at Chatuchak market which long been criticised by animal-rights groups for poor living conditions - AP/Sakchai Lalit

Around 1,000 animals including dogs, cats, snakes and birds have burned to death in their cages when a fire swept through Bangkok’s biggest open-air market on Tuesday morning.

The blaze at Chatuchak, a warren of crowded narrow lanes covering more than 14 hectares in the Thai capital, gutted nearly 100 shops in the pet zone.

Photos of the fire – thought to have been triggered by an electrical short circuit – show huge sections of the famous market engulfed in flames.

In the aftermath, local television outlets showed shopkeepers gathering dead snakes, firefighters carefully pouring bottled water over chickens, and officials breaking metal gates to rescue surviving animals.

Snakes in Bangkok
Some of the exotic pets, including snakes, survived the blaze at Chatuchak market - Shutterstock /Narong Sangnak

No human casualties or injuries were reported, according to authorities, but Thai media has reported that roughly 1,000 animals perished when the blaze broke out just after 4am local time. It was rapidly extinguished, but not before puppies, rabbits, birds and fish were killed.

“Suddenly, thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to breathe,” Meecha, a shop owner who climbed through a window to safety, told the news outlet Thaiger. Some merchants live onsite, though it’s unclear how many were present when the blaze began.

The sprawling weekend market is one of Thailand’s most popular, selling everything from electrical items and furniture, to handicrafts and clothing. It’s a major attraction for tourists – attracting up to 200,000 every week – but is also popular with locals.

Chatuchak Weekend Market
The fire was thought to have been triggered by an electrical short circuit - Reuters/Chalinee Thirasupa

The chaotic, cramped pet zone – which accounts for four of the 27 sections – is controversial.

It has been criticised for poor living conditions and high rates of disease, while wildlife organisations have accused some vendors of trafficking rare and endangered species, such as turtles and tortoises.

Chadchart Sittipunt, Bangkok’s governor, was on the scene after the fire broke out on Tuesday morning. Officials have said they are still investigating the exact cause and the cost of the damage, but that those affected will be able to register for compensation.