A bomb exploded at a popular Erawan shrine and tourism hub during an evening rush Monday killing at least 18 and injuring more than 100. Officials said the explosion left body parts across streets containing an upscale mall and five-star hotels, New York Times reports.
An American filmmaker who works in that area, Alexander Hotz, said that he was sitting in his office when the explosion occurred, and he thought it was some sort of rainstorm. “It sounded like thunder,” Hotz said. It was not until a Thai intern came upstairs to say that “things were going crazy” did they realize what was happening.
People who were near the Erawan shrine, a Hindu religious site, experienced a “full force blast,” according to BBC. National police chief Somyot Poompanmuang said that it was a “pipe bomb” and that it was planted “inside the Erawan shrine.”
Officials initially discovered a suspicious object near the bomb site and were worried about a second explosion. However, they have since determined the object was harmless, according to USA Today.
No one immediately came forward or was identified as responsible for the deadly blast, which caused the worst aftermath from a single attack Thai’s capital has recently experienced. Bangkok has remained relatively peaceful since a military coup ended violent protests in May, NY Times reports.
According to Reuters, Thai forces are fighting with a low-level Muslim insurgency, but the rebels have rarely attacked. Whoever was responsible intended to “destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district,” Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.
At least 18 people were confirmed dead and 117 suffered injuries, according to the Narinthorn emergency medical rescue center. Somyot Poompanmuang added that whoever planted that bomb “is cruel and aimed to kill” and that they wanted to “see a lot of people dead.”
The shrine is at a huge intersection that was the center of political demonstrations in past years. It is a major tourist attraction, especially for those from East Asia. It is too soon to determine the motive of the explosion.
Anusit Kunakorn, secretary of the National Security Council, is said to be monitoring the incident. Wongsuwan told reporters that officials are still unsure of “who did this and why.” “We are not sure if it is politically motivated, but they aim to harm our economy and we will hunt them down.”