On January 17, 2024, a fireworks factory in central Thailand exploded, leading to the loss of at least 18 lives. The blast occurred around 3:00 pm near Sala Khao township in the Suphan Buri province.
The explosion lacked a clear indication of its cause. Authorities were quick to respond, with rescue workers and forensic officers working to retrieve people remains from and around the demolished factory.
Disturbing images shared by local rescue services depicted a scene, with metal debris scattered across the ground and a towering plume of black smoke billowing into the sky.
The exact number of casualties remained unknown, with authorities, including the police, still in the process of confirming the official death toll.
Police Colonel Theerapoj Rawangban expressed the efforts to ascertain the exact number of casualties, stating, “There were deaths; we are checking how many people died.”
The explosion in Suphan Buri province occurred in the afternoon, about 120 km north of Bangkok. Visuals from the scene showed a huge pillar of black smoke rising into the air after the fire was doused.
The factory site, located in an unoccupied rice field, was virtually leveled flat, leaving behind debris and body parts.
The devastation at the fireworks factory, there was a fortunate lack of additional damage to nearby houses or the surrounding community, according to Police Colonel Theerapoj Rawangban.
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Explosions in workshops engaged in the production of firecrackers and pyrotechnics are sadly not uncommon in Thailand.
Last year, a similar incident occurred in Sungai Kolok town in southern Narathiwat province, resulting in 10 deaths and over 100 injuries.
In July 2023, a massive explosion rocked a fireworks warehouse in southern Thailand, leading to at least 10 deaths and 100 people injured, as reported by officials.
That explosion in Narathiwat province was in a residential area and damaged about 100 houses within a 1,640-foot radius, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
The Narathiwat governor suggested that the blast was likely ignited by construction work in the warehouse, with sparks from metal welding causing the fireworks stored inside to catch fire and explode.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was briefed on the explosion and called for an 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,” Mr. Srettha’s office said.
The incident comes less than a month before the Chinese New Year, which falls on February 10, a time when demand for fireworks typically surges.
The provincial governor told Reuters news agency that no survivors had yet been found, showing the severity of the explosion.
The history of explosions in fireworks factories in Thailand, including the recent incident in July 2023 and the one in Sungai Kolok town, questions about the safety regulations and enforcement in the country.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, expressed his condolences and called for an investigation.
His office stated, “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.”