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Explosion in Bangkok, Thailand: Deadly Blast Near Erawan Shrine

A bomb blast ripped through a busy intersection near a shrine popular with tourists in Thailand's capital on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

A bomb blast ripped through a busy intersection near a shrine popular with tourists in Thailand's capital on Monday, killing at least 22 people.

The attack took place at rush hour in the middle of an upscale shopping neighborhood, not far from Erawan Shrine. The shrine is one of the most important in the city and a destination for young people.

Surveillance camera footage captured the moment of the blast, with a fireball exploding in gridlocked traffic and then bystanders fleeing.

Sanjeev Vyas, a DJ from Mumbai, was outside the nearby Hyatt hotel when he heard an explosion, then screams.

"I could … feel the wind rushing from the shockwave," he told NBC News. As Vyas got closer, he said he saw "bodies all over the road" and people screaming and shouting.

Thai rescue workers carry an injured person after a bomb exploded in Bangkok on Monday.PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL / AFP - Getty Images

"I saw pieces of flesh, people carrying other people," he said. "There was smoke, there was fire, it was absolute chaos."

Local taxi driver, Sithit Manukham, described a similar harrowing scene. "I saw wounded people with arms ripped off from the shoulder. Another’s leg was ripped," he said, adding that he helped carry the injured people into a hospital.

Police Chief Gen. Somyot Pumpanmuang told a press conference that there were 12 fatalities and 81 injured. Chinese nationals were among the wounded, according to the country's embassy in Bangkok. It did not say exactly how many.

"We still don't know for sure who did this and why," Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters. "We are not sure if it is politically motivated, but they aim to harm our economy and we will hunt them down."

Thailand's Red Cross issued an urgent appeal for blood donations. Authorities confirmed they were looking for other bombs and said they had found one suspicious object.

Ahmet Hernandez, a 35-year-old American missionary, was on the train when he heard a boom.

"I figured it was a transformer," he told NBC News, describing how his train shook. "Like when you hear thunder in between buildings — that loud booming echo — that's what it sounded like."

Steve Herman, Voice of America's southeast Asia bureau chief, saw "at least six bodies under sheets" when he got to the scene along with charred motorcycles and shattered glass.

Thai soldiers inspect the scene after a bomb exploded in central Bangkok on Monday.PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL / AFP - Getty Images

"Body parts were scattered in the intersection," he told NBC News. "First responders had tried to cover them up with pieces of paper but there were a few places where you could see."

Herman added: "There was utter silence inside the shrine which was very eerie. Every other time I've walked past there, there have been hundreds of people. It's one of the busiest places in all of Bangkok."

Footage from the scene showed a police cordon and authorities moving onlookers away.

"We are now looking for another two to three bombs, as we have found one suspicious object," national police chief Prawut Thawornsiri told Reuters.

Thailand's capital in recent months has been largely immune to the spasms of violence which have plagued other parts of the country. The southern part of predominantly Buddhist Thailand has been wracked by a decade of conflict, but Bangkok has been relatively peaceful since May 2014's military coup on the back of months of sometimes violent political protests.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Ian Williams contributed.