Blast must be explained
The energy giant PTT owes the public a thorough explanation over what caused one of its gas pipelines to explode in Bang Bo district late last week and what the company will do to prevent similar tragic incidents from recurring in the future.
The stakes are high. The company's on- and off-shore pipelines cover a distance of more than 4,000km across many provinces around the country.
Unless the cause is quickly identified and action is taken to secure the integrity of the entire pipeline, public safety cannot be guaranteed.
Three women were killed and at least 50 people injured when a section of the PTT pipeline exploded near a road in Samut Prakan.
The huge blast shocked nearby residents and some of them were also injured in the ensuing panic.
The impact of the explosion was such that it damaged more than 30 houses, engulfing some in flames, as well as about a hundred cars and motorcycles.
The police station located opposite the explosion spot was also badly damaged.
PTT was quick to take responsibility. It set up an operation centre for people affected by the blast and provided them with accommodation and food.
The company also said that it will foot the medical bills of the injured and pay full compensation to the families of the deceased.
After an early assessment, the company said several factors could have led to the explosion including the afternoon heat or a natural gas leak.
However, the exact cause is yet to be officially determined.
One of the PTT executives who inspected the scene insisted that the pipeline had been laid to a minimum depth of 4.5 metres which meets international safety standards.
He also said that the pipeline had passed regular yearly as well as weekly assessments, according to a ThaiPBS report.
The company said it has assigned more staff and specialists to study the blast site to find out what caused the explosion.
While PTT said it will work to complete its investigation into the incident as quickly as possible, it fell short of providing a precise timeline.
While it is understandable that the company should want to be careful and do a meticulous job before arriving at a conclusion, it can't ignore that fact the people in the affected area, as well as those in provinces where the gas pipelines pass through, are now living in fear.
One factor that has been suggested as having possibly triggered the blast is soil subsidence. While it is not yet known whether this was indeed the case, PTT should take it into account as it goes about the investigation.
Also, following PTT's initial assessment, questions need to be asked about the thoroughness of the company's routine checks, which the pipeline had passed with flying colours every time.
While it is possible the gas leak and ensuing explosion were a freak event caused by circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the operator, PTT must nevertheless strive to restore public trust that its maintenance procedures are up to scratch and can be relied upon to prevent all but the most unforeseeable accidents from occurring in the future.
Bangkok Post editorial column
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