An explosion near Bangkok International Airport left a plastic factory ablaze on Monday, killing at least one firefighter and injuring 33 people as rescuers struggled to put out the blaze hours later.
Heavy plumes of black smoke could be seen rising skyward from the city’s downtown 35 kilometers (21 miles), and by early evening, dark clouds had enveloped the Thai capital.
The explosion occurred around 3 a.m. in the Taiwanese company Ming Dih Chemical Co., located on the outskirts of Bangkok, near Suvarnabhumi airport, in Samut Prakan province.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown.
By nightfall, more than 1,800 people had been evacuated, officials said. In makeshift shelters, including a nearby school about nine kilometers away, elderly people in wheelchairs and families carrying masked babies waited to return home.
But at 8 p.m., more than 5 p.m. after the explosion, the blaze was still raging, with rolling balls of flame not smothered by the continuous stream of water cannons from the fire trucks.
# photo1 Helicopters also dumped fire extinguisher foam at the factory site, to no avail.
“We are now able to limit the fire zone,” said Wanchai Kongkasem, governor of Samut Prakan province. “Although it is starting to get dark, we will continue to work because we want to finish releasing it as soon as possible. “
“We are convinced that we can do it,” he said.
Rescuers scoured surrounding neighborhoods in emergency vans, telling people over loudspeakers to leave for their safety.
Some, fearing another explosion, had already packed their belongings in backpacks and were waiting outside their homes to be picked up by organized vans.
The public has been ordered to stay at least 500 meters from the site of the blast, Lt. Gen. Ampon Buarubporn said.
But he added that “we don’t know if there is anything left to explode.”
In a statement posted on his Facebook, Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha praised the rescue workers, volunteers and officials who worked hard to put out the blaze.
# photo2 ″ I would like to send my condolences to the family of the deceased and honor the volunteers and officials who take all the risks to prevent danger to others in this accident, ”he said.
– Air quality –
Officials say Ming Dih Chemical Co. produces expanded polystyrene – colloquially known as polystyrene – and has been in business since 1985 in the Bang Pli district.
In addition to being the site of Suvarnabhumi Airport, the five-kilometer radius around the factory is also home to around 300 factories and residential neighborhoods housing 240 communities.
Throughout the day, the changing direction of the wind moved jet-black fumes across Bangkok, sending dark plumes of smoke twisting between its skyscrapers.
“We have sent air quality control vehicles to check the air around the area and will work in conjunction with the pollution control department,” Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said.
Several fire trucks, tankers and two helicopters were deployed to extinguish the blaze, which left a wreckage of debris and gnarled metal beams.
“Two flights carried 6,000 tons of fire fighting foam to extinguish the fire,” Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Boonyamanee said.
“We are supporting the operation with all our capacity so that the situation is under control as soon as possible. “
Traffic around the area was plunged into chaos when authorities closed a main road parallel to the airport, as strong vapors of burning plastic permeated the area.
Thitipong Choke-umnuay, whose workplace is about 10 kilometers from the factory and escaped the impact, said family members living closer were not so lucky.
Her aunt had evacuated to her office after the impact of the explosion caused severe damage to her home.
“Today, she will move in with me in Lat Phrao (in central Bangkok) because she cannot live at home,” the customs officer told AFP.
“It’s a chemical explosion so there are strong smells. “
© 2021 AFP