BANGKOK: The death toll from a powerful explosion that levelled an unlicensed fireworks warehouse in southern Thailand rose to at least 10 on Sunday (Jul 30), the local governor said as police sought the owner on charges of negligence.
The blast on Saturday afternoon in the town of Sungai Kolok was believed to have been caused by welding during construction work on a building storing fireworks illegally.
More than 100 people were injured in the blast that left only twisted metal beams still standing as rescue workers picked over the debris, with local media reporting hundreds of homes were also seriously damaged.
“We have identified 10 people and found parts of two bodies which we cannot identify yet,” Narathiwat provincial governor Sanan Pongaksorn told a press conference Sunday.
“We are sending to forensics to do DNA tests but primary reports said they were different,” he added.
Police said they were investigating the cause of the explosion in the building, adding they believed it was not licensed to store fireworks.
Narathiwat police commander, Police Major General Chalermporn Khamkhiew, said shortly before the explosion fire-crackers had been delivered.
“We are investigating if those firecrackers were transported legally or illegally,” he said.
“As of now, we do not see any licence for possession of firecrackers or firecracker sales,” he said.
“We assume the factory has no licence.”
The blast detonated from roughly 1,000kg of gunpowder, he said, causing two holes roughly 2m deep and 6m wide.
“We have issued a summons to the owner of the factory with the charge of negligence, which caused the accident,” said Colonel Suthawet Thareethai, police chief in Muno district.
“We are waiting for him to come,” he said.
Officials said a command centre had been established not far from the incident, and authorities had already received 365 complaints from those who had been injured, or had their homes and property damaged.
“Some government office and private schools were also damanged,” officials added.
Police said of the original 115 injured in the blast, some 106 people had been discharged. The condition of those remaining in hospital was not known.
The fire was brought under control late Saturday.
The army would assist in the recovery and clean-up operation, said southern army commander Lieutenant General Santi Sakhutanark.
“We will provide manpower and equipment,” he said.
Eye witnesses reported a huge boom and the earth shaking Saturday.
“I was playing with my phone inside the house then suddenly I heard a loud, thunderous noise and my whole house shook,” eyewitness Seksan Taesen, who lives 100m away from the warehouse, told AFP.
“Then I saw my roof was wide open. I looked outside and I saw houses collapsing and people lying on the ground everywhere. It was chaos.”
Explosions at workshops producing firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are not uncommon in Thailand.
Saturday’s deadly blast comes just five days after 11 people reportedly were injured when a fireworks factory exploded in northern Chiang Mai city.
The Southeast Asian kingdom also has a poor safety record in the construction sector and deadly accidents are common.
Last month two people were killed when a bridge under construction in Bangkok collapsed onto traffic.