At least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured when fireworks exploded at a godown in Sungai Kolok district of Narathiwat on Saturday afternoon.
The incident took place at around 3pm, reportedly while welding was taking place at the godown of the Weerawat Panit shop in the Muno market in the district near the Malaysian border.
The explosion caused extensive damage to the godown and the market, a hub for cross-border product trade in Sungai Kolok district. As many as 200 houses in the area were severely damaged as well, according to the Ministry of Interior.
“The fire is now under control. Preliminary investigation suggests the cause is a technical error during the steel welding process, as the building is under construction,” Narathiwat governor Sanan Phong-aksorn said late in the afternoon.
A huge plume of smoke was seen rising into the air and numerous shops, homes and vehicles were badly damaged by the force of the blast — some ablaze and some with their roofs blown off.
“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 100 metres 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.”
Sungai Kolok Hospital reported at 6pm that 115 people had been injured and nine confirmed killed. Of the injured, 14 were severe cases requiring urgent treatment. Other hospitals in the area were available to receive patients if needed, authorities said.
Local media reported earlier that an unknown number of people were trapped inside their houses and rescue workers were trying to help get them out.
Authorities quickly mobilised manpower and equipment to help with the rescue effort, damage assessment and numerous other urgent tasks to help those affected by the explosion.
Soldiers from the 151st Infantry Regiment, Galyani Vadhana Camp were among those at the scene, along with officials and staff from tambons throughout the district. A total of 10 fire engines and 17 rescue vehicles were also deployed to the scene.
The Muno tambon administrative organisation set up a temporary shelter complete with bedding for those displaced from their homes, along with a royal kitchen to cook and distribute food.
Doctors and psychiatric nurses were also on site to offer help to those in need, and a damage notification point was set up near the accident scene.
Saturday’s incident occurred just days after an explosion at a fireworks factory in Doi Saket district of Chiang Mai, where eight people were injured.
The provincial governor subsequently ordered inspections at all fireworks factories in the northern province to prevent a recurrence of such incidents.
Officials check damage in a residential area near the scene of Saturday’s blast. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)
Officials sift through fireworks at the site of the explosion. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)
A royal kitchen is set up at the scene to serve local residents forced from their homes. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)
Officials check records at a damage reporting and communication centre set up at the scene of Saturday’s explosion. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)