Australians in Bangkok have described the horror of a devastating explosion at a popular religious shrine full of tourists on Tuesday.
The Australian government has not yet confirmed if any of its citizens were injured in the blast, which killed at least 19 and wounded more than 120.
Sydney man Hussein Masri on business in the Thai capital said he saw limbs scattered around the scene.
“All I heard was a bang … you could see limbs here and limbs there,” he told Sky News.
“People were running, people were screaming and all you could see is fire.
“I was shaking because the sound was so deafening … I was helping ambulance people put bodies up to the ambulance.”
The Erawan Shrine targeted by the blast is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Located in the city’s central business district, it features a gilded statue of the god Brahma and is often the site of rituals and dances.
Another Australian, computer programmer Howard Fenton, 50, said the blast, confirmed as a TNT explosion, left a huge crater.
“There’ve just been so many problems in Thailand over the years,” he told AFP.
“You sort of hope that it’s going to go away but when it comes back again it’s pretty shocking. And coming this violently is a real worry.
“I really hope sense will prevail and it doesn’t spiral into something really, really shocking.”
A New Zealand paramedic working with a Bangkok ambulance service said the scenes were “horrific” and graphic.
“It was like a meat market,” he told Reuters.
“There were bodies everywhere. Some were shredded. There were legs where heads were supposed to be. It was horrific.”
One Philippine national and one Chinese national were killed, while scores of tourists are among the 120 wounded.
Tourism accounts for 10 per cent of Thailand’s GDP and is one of the few positive areas on the nation’s economy.
Soon after the blasts, the country’s tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul visited Chulalongkorn Hospital where many of the Chinese victims were taken.
“We wanted to make sure there are translators … because a lot of the Chinese they cannot speak English,” she told AFP.
Asked whether the bombs would impact tourism she said: “This is a big concern for us.”
Whoever laid the device would have known the blast would kill and maim both locals and tourists alike, dealing a further blow to an already struggling economy where tourism has been one of the few bright spots.
Since April 2010 there have been at least seven major bomb attacks to hit the Thai capital of Bangkok, however this morning’s blast already has the highest death and injury toll.
These attacks have been flanked by two separate military coups since 2006. Until this blast foreigners had been rarely caught up in the violence.
The Department of Foreign Affairs SmartTraveller website has not upgraded Thailand’s travel warning for Australians, but is urging people to keep away from Bangkok.
“There were a number of casualties. Keep away from the area and follow the advice of local authorities. The level of advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand.”
– with AAP and ABC