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Hotel fire in Thailand kills at least 78

Officials: Emergency exits were locked

July 11, 1997
Web posted at: 10:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT)

PATTAYA, Thailand (CNN) -- At least 78 people were killed and more than 50 injured by a fire that raged through a 17-story hotel in the beach resort of Pattaya Friday. Authorities said more bodies could still be inside the hotel.

Officials blamed many of the deaths on the fact that the hotel's emergency exits had been locked to prevent guests from skipping out without paying their bills.

Firefighters said the fire broke out in the ground-floor coffeehouse of the Royal Jomtien Resort Hotel, then spread from the sixth floor to the 12th floor of the building. As thick black smoke poured from the hotel, some people fled to the rooftop, awaiting rescue from three helicopters airlifting people to safety.

One man jumped to his death from an 11th-floor window.

Others trapped on upper floors called for help from the windows, smoke and ashes billowing out behind them. Rescue teams on the roof dropped harnesses down to them, and they put their legs through the harnesses and swung out into the air before being pulled up the side of the building.

Hundreds of local residents watched as firefighters carried blackened bodies from the hotel. Some of the injured were rushed to a nearby hospital with serious burns.

More than 300 people, mostly Thais attending seminars, were in the hotel at the time the fire broke out.

The beachfront hotel was not fully occupied because Thailand is in the middle of its monsoon season. Pattaya, about 70 miles (112 km) south of Bangkok, is the most popular beach resort among Bangkok residents.

Damage to the hotel was estimated at more than $40 million.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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