Blaze at Rayong chemical factory kills 12
An explosion that sparked a blaze at a chemical factory in eastern Thailand killed 12 people, injured more than 100 and spewed toxic smoke into the air, the health ministry said on Sunday.
Sunday 6 May 2012, 09:09PM
Hundreds of people had to be evacuated after the fire at the Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province, where residents fought for over a decade to try to stop the site expanding over health risks.
Firefighters quelled the blaze, which had sent plumes of acrid black smoke into the sky, but health officials continued to monitor air quality throughout Sunday amid concerns more poisonous fumes may still seep into the air.
A health ministry statement said 12 people had died in the explosion and ensuing fire while 129 were injured, mainly suffering burns.
Most of the victims are believed to be factory workers.
"Doctors said 12 were killed in yesterday's explosion but we can only confirm 10 so far," Map Ta Phut police Lieutenant Colonel Charoen Vititkornkul said.
"Police forensic teams are searching for clues to what happened and we are also looking for any more bodies," he said, adding police were ready to evacuate more residents if necessary.
Rayong province, some 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Bangkok, is one of Thailand's biggest industrial areas.
Environmentalists and villagers had stalled construction of 76 projects at Map Ta Phut, before a 2010 court ruling ordered building to be resumed.
Heavy pollution from the estate was first noticed in the 1980s, but it was not until 1997 that villagers began to campaign after children were taken ill and rates of cancer and respiratory illness surged.
Despite the final result, the strident grassroots movement against the industrial site ruffled feathers in a country where local voices often appear to go unheard.