Flames ripped through a 64-million-dollar mansion in Thailand on Wednesday (July 1), the first day it reopened after the coronavirus lockdown.
The Baan Sukhawadee building near the tourist resort of Pattaya, eastern Thailand, had opened again to the public after Covid-19 restrictions were eased.
But staff at the sprawling sea-front mansion - packed with priceless oriental antiques and relics - heard ''an explosion'' and noticed flames shortly after 10am.
The inferno engulfed the top of the building with thick clouds of black smoke rising into the sky which were visible for miles around.
More than 10 fire trucks rushed to the inferno but they were initially unable to stop the fire from spreading. They were still battling the flames at 12:30pm local time with firemen trawling through the smoke-charred insides of the building.
District Sheriff Amnat Charoensri said there were fears that the building could collapse with the flames weakening and cracking its supports.
He said: ''Fire crews could not control the flames. They continued to spread through the building. It accelerated so quickly.''
The building caretaker Wichian Chamsai said his colleagues heard an loud explosion before the fire broke out.
He said: "I was working in the building when one of my colleagues shouted to me telling that he heard an explosion.
"Then I also saw a spark from the back of the building before we evacuated as quickly as we could. It sounded like an electrical problem caused the fire."
Police have closed the area and are waiting for the inferno to be brought under control before they start investigations.
According to local media, the damage suffered by the building already more than 400 million baht (13 million USD).
The Baan Sukhawadee mansion and its content are reportedly insured for more than two billion Thai baht (64.6million USD).
The mansion was built by a Thai billionaire Dr. Panya Choititawanand is used for Buddhist religious ceremonies, tourism and hosting events.