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Fire kills hundreds of caged animals, including puppies and birds, at famous market in Thailand

Hundreds of caged animals died Tuesday after a fire struck Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the most famous markets in Thailand's capital.

The fire was reported early in the morning and quickly swept across more than 100 shops in the market's pet section, according to the Bangkok government. Authorities said the blaze was started by an electrical short circuit, the BBC reported.

Officials said it took them about an hour to bring the fire under control. There are no reports of human casualties, but Thai media reports suggested that the fire killed several hundred animals, including puppies, fish, snakes, birds and rabbits, kept in cages and locked inside the shops.

A firefighter carries injured chickens in a cage following a fire at a pet market next to Chatuchak market in Bangkok on June 11, 2024.  CHANAKARN LAOSARAKHAM/AFP via Getty Images

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt, who visited the scene after the fire was put out, said people could help affected shop owners by offering to house surviving animals. Officials could be seen at the site in the morning, inspecting the charred shops or breaking metal gates to bring out animals that survived the fire.

Officials said they are still working on estimating the cost of damage, and that affected shop owners could register for compensation.

The sprawling weekend market is a major tourist draw, bringing in shoppers from all over the world to browse its hundreds of shops and stalls for items ranging from food and drink to clothing, furniture, plants, books and pets. It claims to draw nearly 200,000 tourists every Saturday and Sunday, the BBC reported.

Puppies for sale, Chatuchak market, Bangkok20230404
Puppies in a cage for sale at the sprawling Chatuchak market, Bangkok, Thailand, in an undated photo. Andy Soloman/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Wildlife organizations have often accused some vendors of involvement in the trafficking of rare and endangered species, such as turtles, tortoises, birds and even exotic cats. In 2013, police found 14 white lions imported from Africa and hundreds of other protected animals in a warehouse near Bangkok and arrested a man who owned an exotic pet shop at Chatuchak Weekend Market.

The BBC reported that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the fire "underscores the urgent need for action."

"Animals are not ours to use for our entertainment... PETA urges the Thai government to ensure that this facility, where captive animals suffer, never reopens," said the group's senior vice-president Jason Baker.

The Wildlife Friends Foundation in Thailand described the market as a "shame on Bangkok," the BBC reported.

"Many of these poor animals are smuggled into the country, often illegally. It is immoral, cruel, a health and safety hazard, and completely unnecessary," the foundation's director Edwin Wiek said.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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