SAMUT PRAKAN: A huge explosion and fire destroyed a factory producing plastic foam and plastic pellets and caused extensive damage to surrounding communities in Bang Phli district early Monday morning
Twenty-one people were confirmed injured, officials and rescue foundations reported. The toll was not final.
The fire was initially believed brought under control around dawn, but black smoke continued to billow into the sky late in the morning.
The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department and Bang Phli district office ordered the urgent evacuation of all people within a five-kilometre radius. There were worries there could be more explosions as the core fire was moving towards another area used to store chemicals.
There are five or six warehouses in the factory compound, where 50 tonnes of chemicals were reported to be stored.
The explosion occurred about 2.50am at the Ming Dih Chemical factory in Soi King Kaew 21 at Moo 15 village in tambon Rachathewa.
It was followed by a massive fire that engulfed the entire factory and caused extensive damage to buildings and houses within a one-kilometre radius.
More than 30 fire engines from the Rachathewa tambon administration organisation and other local administrations were rushed to the scene.
Helicopters were sent to dump water on the fire, as thick smoke continued to billow from the burning factory. The smoke plume was clearly seen in Bangkok and was also visible from Suvarnabhumi airport, but flights were not affected.
The explosion was felt as far as five kilometres from the factory site.
"I heard a big bang. It sounded very close and I thought it was a huge lightning bolt," said Aree Thongboonrawd, a Bangkok Post employee whose house is five kilometres away.
"Then I heard sirens and thought a plane had crashed," she said. Her house was shaken by the blast wave, but not damaged.
Owners of houses damaged by the explosion and fire were advised to register a complaint with police.
Motorists were advised to avoid roads in Rachathewa, while Chularat 9 Hospital postponed all patients' appointments. People scheduled for vaccination on Monday should come on Tuesday instead, the hospital said.
The cause of the explosion was not known.
Taiwanese-based Ming Dih Chemical Co set up the factory in 1998. It can produce up to 30,000 tonnes of plastic foam and pillets a year. The factory is a hub to distribute the products to domestic markets and export to neighbouring countries.