No, please, really about those cables, Bangkok says following spectacular sidewalk blaze

Photo: Fm91
Photo: Fm91

A street aflame with burning cables this morning left many convinced it’s well past time the government speed efforts to underground the kingdom’s notoriously messy, overhead cables.

Flames spread through a tangle of low-slung cabling beside a pedestrian footbridge on Ramkhamhaeng Road at about 8am. It only took firefighters about 20 minutes to put out the sidewalk inferno, and they can’t tell how it started – something they blamed on the messy nature of the problem.

“In the spot where the fire broke out, there are a bunch of different kinds of cables including electric and internet cables tangled together. Therefore, we cannot tell which cable caused it and why,” Khomsan Prongdong of the Huamak Fire Station told Coconuts Bangkok. Though several media outlets online have speculated a short circuit sparked the blaze, Khomsan said that hasn’t been concluded.

Khomsan said Ramkhamhaeng Road has seen a surge in fires recently. He speculated that the construction of new BTS stations nearby may the cause. He could not say how many such fires his station has responded to this year. Representatives with the Metropolitan Electricity Authority could not be reached for comment via phone by Wednesday afternoon.

Photo: JS100
Photo: JS100

Though the crisis has past, it was a striking reminder to many weary with the careless accumulation of layer-after-layer of abandoned data and power lines in which older, unused lines are rarely if ever removed.

“The cables are so messy and tangled, I can’t even tell which cable is for what. Of course it’s going to catch on fire!” Facebook user Sakorn Sawasdee commented today on a photo of the fire.

Multiple people including Pranom Duangkaew called for the city to get serious about its campaign to move all cables underground as many other countries have. 

“This is terrifying! There are so many different cables tangled up in that mess. In Taiwan, they’ve already put all the cables under ground. It’s really time for our country to improve our messy cables,” she wrote today.

The greatest challenge of course is the fact that Bangkok sits in a floodplain and water is never far below the surface. That means construction of expensive conduit and infrastructure to hide their black-sheathed shame.

Thailand’s tangled cable chaos, which often hangs dangerously low above walkways, has long been a subject of scrutiny by residents, foreigners and even Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

The city fathers were mortified when Gates cable-shamed the capital three years ago – though he got some important details wrong.

“I’ve visited many cities filled with tangled wires such as those in this photo from Thailand, where people have illegally tapped into the grid on their own to get the power they need — at great personal risk,” Gates wrote, mistaking the official work of agencies and corporations for power bandistry. He also said urban areas suffered “frequent blackouts and power cuts,” which came as a surprise to many living here.

While the government keeps kicking its deadline down the road for moving all cables underground, several years of work have hardly made a dent. 

As of last year, 1,184 utility poles bad been removed from three major streets, including Wireless Road and large stretches of Sukhumvit Road. Earlier this year, a city-owned contractor said it would all be done by 2021.

Photo: JS100
Photo: JS100
Photo: JS100
Photo: JS100


Learning to love Bangkok’s twisted blight (Photos)

Knot a problem: Bangkok tackles street cables
Bill Gates gets wires crossed with picture of Thailand’s drooping street cables
Nightmare Nest: Power cables catch fire as heavy rain falls (PHOTOS)
More of Bangkok’s tangled cables to go underground

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