At least 22 killed in Suphan Buri fireworks explosion
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At least 22 killed in Suphan Buri fireworks explosion

Blast was second fatal incident at factory in Muang district

Smoke pours from a fireworks factory in Muang district of Suphan Buri following an explosion that claimed at least 17 lives on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: Suphan Buri Highway Rescue Association)
Smoke pours from a fireworks factory in Muang district of Suphan Buri following an explosion that claimed at least 17 lives on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: Suphan Buri Highway Rescue Association)

At least 22 people were killed on Wednesday in an explosion at a Suphan Buri fireworks factory where a blast a year ago left one person dead and three injured. About 10 more people are said to be missing.

The explosion occurred at village Moo 3 in tambon Salakhao of Muang district around 3.30pm. So far, 20 of the dead have been identified.

The force of the blast spread debris in a radius of 100 metres, with human remains scattered everywhere.

Local residents said that about 20 workers had arrived to work at the factory in the morning and that they saw nobody come out after the explosion.

“We cannot tell whether all the workers were killed. The officials are entering the site to investigate. They have not found any survivors,” provincial governor Nattapat Suwanprateep told Reuters earlier.

The factory owner was not among the dead because he had gone out to deliver fireworks to customers at the time, said Thongsuk Suenui, deputy chairman of tambon Salakhao municipality. (Story continues below)

Rescue workers inspect the scene of the explosion. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)

The factory was operating out of a farmhouse which where gunpowder and other raw materials for fireworks were stored. The operator had reportedly sought permission from the relevant agencies and a public hearing was held.

There were reports that an explosion at the same factory in November 2022 killed one person.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the blast.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin was briefed on the explosion while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and urged a swift investigation.

“The prime minister ordered an inspection of the plant to see if it was operating legally and if the explosion was caused by negligence. The law must be enforced to the fullest extent because there are innocent deaths and injuries,” his office said.

Local officials said the 20 people confirmed as dead included 12 women and 8 men. They were identified as: Ms Ramphai Khenma, Sophon Soikhakhao, Ms Saengduen Prangchan, Tam Prangchan, Ms Maem Khwan-on, Ms Namphon Kerdnok, Ms Phayao Bunklom, Ms Bunklua Thongsamrit, Thaweesak Thongsamrit, Ms Ratchanee Phanton, Rungrot Ounnoi, Somnuek Bunklong, Ms Manop Juadphan-in, Ms Phorntip Phantaeng, Keng (surname not khown), Ms Tuenjai Yimyaem, Samran Saithong, Somkhuan Jaengwithee, Ms Suchada Phanphuek and Ms Phassorn Naksomphong.

History repeating

Records show there were 24 explosions at fireworks factories and warehouses over the 15 years between 2008 and 2023, with each incident causing extensive damage including many deaths and injuries.

Many illegal fireworks factories and warehouses that lack standards are located in different communities throughout Thailand, according to Sonthi Kotchawat, an environmental and health expert.

After a tragedy in July 2023 in Narathiwat in which 11 people were killed and 389 injured, Mr Sonthi said the failure by the relevant agencies to form partnerships to proactively address this problem was clear.

In order to prevent history from repeating itself, he said, they should reassess and change all the related rules and regulations as well as increase the penalties against violators.

According to Mr Sonthi, a fireworks factory or warehouse that meets the standards must include a “bubble zone” – with a fence set up at least 20 meters from its building – and have a reserved area that prevents any community expansion from getting into its 100- to 500-metre radius depending on the quantity of fireworks in the factory.

The factory building must be a one-storey stand-alone building without an underground or mezzanine floor. It must be built using inflammable materials and include a lightning rod. The roof must be able to reduce the impact of an explosion. Moreover, it must have a ventilation system that extracts heat and controls the temperature under 30 degrees Celsius and two chemical fire extinguishers for every 100 square metres.

Debris is scattered near the site of Wednesday’s explosion. (Photo: Suphan Buri Highway Rescue Association)

Officials and rescue workers arrive at the explosion site. (Photo: Ministry of Interior)

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