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Death Toll Rises in Bangkok Blast


Bomb Explodes in Central Bangkok
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Steve Herman reports from the scene of the bomb blast in central Bangkok.

The death toll from an explosion late Monday near a popular tourist site in Thailand's capital has risen to at least 22, with more than 120 others wounded. Eight of the victims were foreigners.

The blast hit central Bangkok's commercial Ratchaprasong intersection, close to the open-air Erawan Hindu shrine.

The explosion targeted an area that draws tourists and shoppers with five-star hotels and upscale stores. Surveillance cameras caught the moment the bomb went off as cars and motorcycles passed through the busy corner.

Arriving at the scene shortly after the explosion, VOA correspondent Steve Herman saw bodies covered in white sheets and human remains strewn on the street.

The Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok is usually packed with tourists and Thais, making offerings at a statue that is the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.

Erawan Shrine, Bangkok (Click to enlarge map)
Erawan Shrine, Bangkok (Click to enlarge map)

At that time of the evening, there would be hundreds of people in the area, Herman added.

Officials on the scene expressed no doubt that the blast intended to kill people and deliver a blow to Thailand's tourism industry, which accounts for about one-tenth of the kingdom's economy.

WATCH: Surveillance video footage of Thai blast

Surveillance Cameras Catch Moment of Thai Blast
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No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing, the worst violence in the capital since weeks of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in 2010 resulted in more than 90 deaths.

The country has suffered a low-level Islamic insurgency in three southern provinces since 2004, but that violence has rarely spread north.

The country's turbulent political climate over the past decade led to a military takeover last year. Since then the military-led government has kept a tight grip on power.

Thailand has become increasingly reliant on visitors from China since last year's coup and a period of martial law scared away other tourists.

Following the explosion authorities increased security in other tourist and commercial areas.

VOA correspondent Steve Herman and journalist Ron Corben contributed to this report from Bangkok.