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Thai petrochemicals plant blast death toll rises to 12

08 May 2012

A blast at the Bangkok Synthetics Co (BST) plant on the Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Bangkok-Rayong on May 5 has left at least 12 dead and 129 wounded, according to Thai Deputy Public Health Minister Surawit Khonsomboon, quoted in the Bangkok Post.

The fatal blast took place in a production unit of BST Elastomers Co
The fatal blast took place in a production unit of BST Elastomers Co

Nine were killed in the explosion at the BST plant; the other three died at hospital.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has set up a tripartite committee to examine possible toxic contamination in the area, and visited workers injured in the explosion in local hospitals over the weekend.

The committee consists of experts from the Industry Ministry, the Pollution Control Department and representatives of local communities.

Quoting plant staff, the Post said there were three loud explosions followed by a fire, with the blasts so powerful that a pickup truck was lifted 10m off the ground.

Chaiyot Wongphyat, the company's managing director, said the accident took place while workers were cleaning the production line with toluene, the last step in the shutdown procedure during a product grade switching process. The plant was affected by heavy storm conditions at the time, he added.

The fire broke out at toluene vessel inside a production unit of BST Elastomers Co, a subsidiary of BST Group, at around 1520 hours. The fire was under control at around 1800 hours, and the cause is still under investigation, Chaiyot said.

The company said it deeply regretted the unfortunate incident and will take responsibility for medical care and the impact to the surrounding communities, including setting up a 24-hour call centre and mobile medical units to support the nearby communities. It said it would pay compensation and medical treatment costs for the affected people. 

The company yesterday played down concerns over any toxic contamination of the atmosphere or water supply, but said those expposed to the toluene, could experience irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory organs, as well as feel dizziness and vomiting.

Industry Minister Pongsvas Svasti said the accident had resulted in about 1.5-1.7 billion baht in damage. He ordered the closure of the BST factory, and instructed other chemical plants on the industrial estate to recheck their security systems.

Air quality checks had found no high levels of hazardous substances, he said, adding it was safe for residents who had been evacuated from the area to return to their homes. Thousands of nearby residents were told to move out of the area for safety reasons shortly after the accident. 

BST Elastomers Company Limited produces synthetic rubbers for automobile tyres, automobile parts, shoe soles, sporting goods, and other rubber products. 

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