Evacuees say no fire alarms heard at CentralWorld

A photo taken at 6pm from across the street of CentralWorld. Photo: Sahinop / Twitter
A photo taken at 6pm from across the street of CentralWorld. Photo: Sahinop / Twitter

Some of those who escaped the acrid smoke and flames at CentralWorld last night took to social media today to criticize the mall’s alarm and evacuation systems.

In numerous posts, people who were inside the shopping mall when the fire started just before 6pm said that if they heard any, there was a long delay before alarms went off and the evacuation order given – something the mall this morning chalked up to a system design to minimize chaos.

“I work here. I don’t even know what happened,” mall employee @Sone09_0805 tweeted. “There was no alarm to warn us. There was an announcement, but it was very quiet. The security guards in the mall were also nowhere to be found. I only found out about the fire when smoke reached the store I worked at. I almost didn’t make it out in time.”

Victims in CentralWorld blaze identified as employees

Facebook user Air Jariyaporn Wongsawad wrote that she was on the mall’s fifth floor with her two children when she noticed several people rushing to get out.

That was when a passerby told her there was fire.

“I was pretty shaken up because I had two kids with me. What confuses me, though, is why I didn’t hear a fire alarm at all. Was I too far from where the fire started?” she wrote.

We’ve reached out to several of those who shared complaints for more information but received not responses by publication time.

Mall owner Central Pattana said the mall’s size is a factor in how its emergency system operates in a statement this morning seeming to address the criticism.

“Since the mall is so big and has many exits, we had to divide our alarm system into many sections. Thus, our alarms don’t go off at once, but in a specific order to avoid chaos and accidents during evacuation,” it said in the statement.

Spanning more than 500,000sqm, CentralWorld is one of Bangkok’s largest shopping malls.

The company went on to list other existing measures it said are in place for such emergencies, including smoke detectors, trained security guards and firemen “on standby 24 hours a day.”

“Nevertheless, our company will check all our systems again in order to improve on them. We accept and thank everyone for their feedback,” it added.

That did not stem the tide of skepticism.  

Another Facebook user, Soda Zonic, posted footage of people evacuating while no audible alarm could be heard. “There’s so much smoke,” he can be heard saying in the clip.

He added the following caption to the video:  

“I’m still confused about the CentralWorld Fire:

  1. There were no alarms
  2. The announcement was extremely delayed
  3. Many of the entrance/exit doors suddenly closed without an announcement. We could only exit through the front of the mall.”

Reached for comment, Jiratthiti Wiengsri said he was observing the fire from outside the mall. He told Coconuts Bangkok that a large crowd of lookie-loos gathered outside the mall entrance to see what was happening, which interfered with the evacuation and contributed to the total traffic meltdown.

“People looked pretty panicked… Everything was very hectic. There were lots of sirens,” he said.

Two mall employees died leaping from windows to escape the blaze, which began on the eighth floor of the mall. The fire’s cause was still being investigated as of early Thursday afternoon; nevertheless, the mall plans to reopen at 2pm Friday. The office tower reopened Thursday afternoon. The mall’s Songkran party set to take place this weekend will go on as planned, a Central rep said.

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing
Air Jariyaporn Wongsawad evacuating the mall with her children. Photo: Air Jariyaporn Wongsawad / Facebook
The scene outside the mall. Photo: Jiratthiti Wiengsri / Facebook
The scene outside the mall. Photo: Jiratthiti Wiengsri / Facebook
Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor
Evacuees. Photo: Air Jariyaporn Wongsawad / Facebook
Smoke filling the mall. Photo: @Mint_oooo/ Twitter
Smoke filling the mall. Photo: @Mint_oooo/ Twitter

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the mall’s decision to delay reopening until Friday.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified where the fire broke out at being in an adjacent hotel. It was in fact the mall itself.

Related Stories:

2 killed in CentralWorld mall blaze

Victims in CentralWorld blaze identified as employees

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