An explosion in the underground garage under the Lee Garden Hotel in Hat Yai in Southern Thailand has killed at least four people, and trapped over 200 on upper floors of the hotel. The explosion also severely damaged a McDonald’s restaurant located in the Lee Gardens Plaza shopping mall attached to the Lee Gardens Hotel, and many people are feared severely injured or dead here too.
At this point, police officials are saying the cause of the Hat Yai explosion was either due to a gas main explosion from an underground gas tank or a car bomb — but they have not been able to ascertain which yet.
Meanwhile the Lee Gardens Plaza shopping mall has been completely evacuated, as have many neighboring buildings in the center of Hat Yai.
Thai TV is currently showing the Hat Yai fire department rescuing people from upper floors of the Lee Garden Hotel via an elevated ladder, with many seeming to be in shock and covered in soot from fire on the fourth and fifth floors of the hotel. People were also sliding down roped together sheets from the hotel’s lower floors, in an effort to escape.
Fears that the explosion was caused by a car bomb are unfortunately realistic, as two car bombs and a motorcycle bomb set by Muslim extremists exploded around the same time this afternoon in the town of Yala, about 130 kilometers from Hat Yai killing at least 7 people.
Update – 9:30pm – Thai news is reporting police have still not said whether the explosion was caused by a bomb or by gas, but have said that at least 300 people were injured in the explosion and have been sent to several area hospitals and clinics. Most of the injured though are said to have relatively minor injuries.
Second Update – 9am 1st April – Hat Yai police now say the explosion at Lee Gardens Plaza was definitely as a result of a car bomb in the underground parking lot of the mall. Five people died — four men and one woman, whose charred bodies were found in several underground passages of the hotel.