Thailand evacuates 500 people after chemical plant explosion

A massive explosion on Monday, July 5 at a chemical plant in the suburbs of Bangkok killed at least one firefighter, injured dozens of people and damaged dozens of homes.

The fire broke out around 3 a.m. at the plant of Taiwanese company Ming Dih Chemical Co, located in the suburbs of Bangkok, near Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The explosion blew out the windows of surrounding houses and sent debris into the air.

Heavy plumes of black smoke could be seen rising into the sky up to 35 km away, as helicopters continued to dump fire foam from the air at the site.

The explosion was heard for miles around, and surveillance footage from a neighboring house captured the flash of light and boom, followed by damage to the house and the house next door from the airwaves. shock (see the video at the end of the article).

The inhabitants had to be evacuated

By midday, 500 residents of the area were moved to two shelters, including a nearby school about 9 km away, where elderly residents in wheelchairs were waiting to be able to return home.

The main fire at the Ming Dih chemical plant had been brought under control by mid-morning, but a huge tank containing styrene monomer continued to burn, local disaster prevention official Chailit Suwannakitpong said.

By late afternoon, thick clouds of black smoke continued to emerge from the site and helicopters attempted to get close enough to dump fire retardants, with little apparent success at first.

Authorities said 62 people were injured, including 12 involved in firefighting and rescue efforts, and one death had been confirmed.

Styrene monomer, a hazardous liquid chemical used in the production of plates, cups and other disposables, can produce toxic fumes when ignited.

Mr Chailit said authorities were trying to get everyone out of the area, including medics and patients from the main neighborhood hospital, where many victims were being treated, over fear of the fumes and the possibility of other explosions.

The chemical itself also emits styrene gas, a neurotoxin that can immobilize people within minutes of inhaling and can be fatal in high concentrations.

Last year, in the Indian city of Visakhapatnam, a styrene gas leak from a chemical plant killed 12 people and left more than 1,000 sick.

Authorities are carefully monitoring the air in the fire area, and pollution control department official Thalerngsak Petchsuwan has asked anyone in the vicinity to close their doors and windows to avoid inhaling the fumes. .

“Those who breathe them in can have dizziness and vomiting and this can cause cancer in the long run,” he said.

In Thai media photos, firefighters can be seen climbing the twisted steel rubble of the complex’s warehouses to bring their hoses up to the flames, as they struggle to bring the blaze under control.

The charred body of the only victim identified to date – a volunteer rescuer, lay face down among the debris.

The area around the explosion is a mix of old industrial complexes and newer housing estates built after the airport opened in 2006.

Jaruwan Chamsopa, who lives about 3 km from the factory, said the loud explosion in the middle of the night shattered the windows of his house, damaged the roof and knocked down parts of the ceiling.

She added that the windows of all the houses on her street were also smashed.

“I was shocked when the explosion took place,” she said.

“I went out and saw a big fire in the sky”.

She said that she, her husband and her mother did not evacuate until 8 a.m.

“I didn’t realize it would be such a dangerous chemical that I would have to vent,” she said.

“I am worried because the black smoke has reached my house.”

Authorities ordered the evacuation of a 5 km area around the scene of the fire and evacuation centers were set up at a school and a government office for people forced to leave their homes.

There is no immediate information on what could have caused the fire in the Bang Phli district, and the company cannot be contacted by phone.

The first explosion rocked the Suvarnabhumi terminal, setting off alarms at Bangkok’s main international airport.

Airport officials said in a statement that no flights had been canceled, but continued to monitor the situation and were ready to “put contingency plans in place should the need arise.”

They added that they would not compromise on security.

Video: Factory explosion in Thailand causes mass evacuation for fear of toxic fumes

Source : South China Morning Post

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