BANGKOK — A powerful explosion ripped through a fireworks warehouse Saturday in southern Thailand, killing nine people and injuring more than 100, a senior official said, as several nearby homes were levelled or damaged.
The blast in the town of Sungai Kolok in the border province of Narathiwat is thought to have been caused by welding during construction work on the building.
“A warehouse storing firecrackers in Sungai Kolok exploded this afternoon, the latest number is nine dead and 115 injured,” Narathiwat governor Sanan Pongaksorn told AFP.
“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.”
The explosion devastated a substantial area around the warehouse. Footage on local media showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the air and numerous shops, homes and vehicles badly damaged by the force of the blast — some ablaze and many with their roofs blown off.
Some media are putting the death toll at 10 but the figure could not be confirmed.
AFP photos from the scene show the warehouse reduced to rubble and twisted metal.
The Bangkok Post cited the Ministry of Interior reporting that as many as 200 houses were damaged by the explosion in the border town on the frontier with Malaysia. Other media had said up to 500 homes could have been damaged.
“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 house collapsing and people lying on the ground everywhere. It was chaos.”
Video shot by Seksan showed a scene of turmoil at a local market that serves the district next to the Malaysian border, with dazed locals wandering around and emergency services rushing to help.
Broken glass, roof tiles and other debris litter the ground. Several market stalls were shredded or otherwise heavily damaged.
Explosions at workshops producing firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are not uncommon in Thailand. Saturday’s deadly blast comes just five days after 11 people reportedly were injured when a fireworks factory exploded in the northern city of Chiang Mai.
The South-east Asian kingdom also has a poor safety record in the construction sector and deadly accidents are common.
Last month two people were killed when a bridge under construction in Bangkok collapsed onto traffic. — AFP