S'porean survivor of Bangkok blast: I found pieces of flesh
S'porean at blast site recalls sweeping bits of someone else's flesh from her sister's face
A thunderous sound. A searing bright light. And then, dead bodies to her right and left.
This was how Madam Betty Ong described the traumatic moments during the bombing at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok on Monday evening.
She was at one corner of the Shrine when the bomb went off. When she came to her senses, the path in front of her was strewn with broken glass.
People were screaming and those who could move scrambled to get away.
"The shrine was intact," the 70-year-old retiree told The New Paper over the phone from Hua Chiew Hospital in Bangkok.
"At that instant (when she saw the flash of light), it didn't strike me as a bomb or anything. I thought somebody was doing some gas lighting. It was a very bright spark."
The windows of neighbouring buildings shattered and there were dead bodies everywhere, she added.
"One child beside me was not moving. There was no blood, but he was not moving at all," Madam Ong said.
"I was in a state of shock."
At least 20 people, including a Singaporean woman, were killed in the blast. More than 100 were injured.
Madam Ong, her sister, her brother and her sister-in-law, had paid a quick visit to the shrine, a popular tourist spot in Bangkok.
They were on a stopover on their way back to Singapore from a holiday at Kao Yai, about 200km away.
"The place was very crowded and there was the usual cultural dance," she said, referring to dancers worshippers pay to perform.
There are four praying areas around the shrine and Madam Ong was at the third one, furthest from the entrance, when the blast occurred.
"(After the explosion) I sat on the ground. I was just looking forward to seeing my family," she said.
"My brother was about 1½ metres from me. He was calling to me to check if I was all right."
Madam Ong's brother told her that his leg was broken.
"We didn't see any blood or anything. But he said it was broken," she said.
"We couldn't move him. He didn't want to be moved.
"Then my sister came. She had a lot of fragments of glass stuck on her leg and on her face.
"There were bits of flesh on her. I thought the glass had cut her. But when I swept them away, I realised it was someone else's flesh."
Madam Ong said the scene was very chaotic and it was passers-by, rather than the police, who helped her and her family to the Police General Hospital across the street.
"The people around there were helping. Some came with wheelchairs," she said.
But the Ongs' ordeal was not over.
The Police General Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of casualties, Madam Ong said.
"It was very, very crowded and language was a big barrier.
"They couldn't understand what we were saying (and) we couldn't understand them. There was a big breakdown in communication."
Eventually, all four of them were transferred by ambulance to Hua Chiew Hospital about 3km away.
Madam Ong's brother and sister are now hospitalised there.
"We had to try very hard to get a quick operation done. My sister-in-law insisted that the operation be done on the same morning," said Madam Ong.
She added that two pieces of shrapnel about 5mm in size were removed from her brother's leg and he is waiting for a CT (Computed Tomography) scan to check if there are any foreign fragments lodged in his abdomen.
Her sister is waiting for an opinion from a plastic surgeon about her facial injuries.
Madam Ong was also hurt during the blast and needed stitches.
She said yesterday afternoon: "Since Monday night, we have not been able to go back to the hotel . We have not even had our meals. Until now, we are surviving only on water.
"Now we are stranded. We don't know how to go back. We are seeing whether the Singapore embassy can help us with that. I was one of the very, very lucky ones. There were dead bodies surrounding me. I looked on the left and on the right and there were dead bodies.
"I thought I would only see this on TV, the bombings and all that. I never thought that I would be in a situation like this."
There were bits of flesh on her. I thought the glass had cut her. But when I swept them away, I realised it was someone else's flesh.
- Madam Betty Ong on her sister, who was injured in the blast
S'porean woman dead, husband hurt
She was crossing the busy streets of central Bangkok and heading towards the popular Erawan shrine when the blast went off.
Singaporean Melisa Liew, 34, was killed in the explosion that rocked the Thai capital on Monday.
The New Paper understands that she had been visiting Bangkok with her husband, Mr Ng Su Teck, and her brother.
It is not known if her brother suffered any injuries, but Mr Ng, 35, remained warded at the Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok yesterday.
"He's okay now," hospital chief nurse Payon Buang Thip told TNP.
"He has injuries in his legs. Now he still cannot walk, but he is in normal ward, not intensive care."
Mr Payon also said that Mr Ng is the only Singaporean being treated at the hospital.
Medical staff are not sure when he can be discharged.
Mr Ng is understood to be the director of a company dealing in marine supplies, with previous business ties in Thailand.
In Bedok, where the couple's home is, neighbours were shocked when told that Madam Liew had died in the blast.
"It's very sad to hear that she's gone. She's too young and their life as a couple had only just begun," said a neighbour in her 40s, who declined to be named.
"I'm shocked that this has happened. I didn't even know they were in Bangkok."
Neighbours said the couple were friendly and would always greet them. They also said that Mr Ng and his wife moved in about two years ago after renovating their flat.
One neighbour said: "They have two dogs and are good neighbours who are friendly. They would often say hello to me and my children."
When asked if the couple had children, she replied: "They are young and don't have kids yet."
Relatives of Madam Liew flew to Bangkok yesterday to identify her body. Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is providing assistance to the family.
- Additional reporting by David Sun
Embassy, MFA to help S'poreans
Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has described the bomb attack in Bangkok as "heinous", adding that he was "deeply shocked".
A Singaporean woman was among the 20 killed in the blast.
Seven other Singaporeans were injured, Mr Shanmugam told Parliament yesterday.
He said: "Members will join me in extending our deepest condolences to the family of the young lady who was killed."
Mr Shanmugam added that the Singapore embassy in Bangkok and his Ministry have been working overnight to contact and assist Singaporeans there.
"Someone's evil action and a life of promise, snatched away in a moment of terror. And an innocent family's lifetime of grief," he said.
"It is a tragic loss. To all those who were injured, including the Singaporeans, we wish them speedy recovery.
"We also extend our deepest sympathies to the people and Government of Thailand, and the others who have been killed or injured."
An earlier statement by MFA said Ambassador Chua Siew San visited the injured Singaporeans, who are all receiving medical attention and treatment.
Some of those who suffered light injuries have been discharged.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam also took to Facebook to offer his condolences.
He wrote that he was saddened by the death and that his and his wife's thoughts were with the bereaved family.
In an earlier post, he wrote: "My wife and I were shocked to learn of the bomb blast that took place near a tourist attraction in Bangkok last night.
"We were especially concerned by media reports that a Singaporean was among those who lost their lives in the incident and several Singaporeans were injured too.
"Our condolences go to the families of all the victims and we pray for the speedy and complete recovery of those who are injured. We hope that the perpetrators of this terrible act of terror will be brought to justice swiftly."
Thai police on hunt for suspect
SUSPECT: CCTV footage of the suspect placing a backpack at the shrine and walking away. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Thai authorities said yesterday they were looking for a man (above) shown on security footage strolling into the packed Erawan shrine in a yellow T-shirt and wearing a backpack.
Police released images showing the man, who appeared young and slightly built, AFP reported.
He sits down on a bench and moments later, he takes the backpack off, stands up and walks out holding only a blue plastic bag and what appears to be a mobile phone.
National police spokesman Prawut Thavorn said the man left the scene in a motorcycle taxi and the blast occurred three minutes later.
"It is quite clear that he is the perpetrator in this case," Mr Prawut told local TV, adding that the police were also trying to track down the driver.
But he and other security chiefs did not reveal if they knew of any motives for the attack.