The first report came in from Gawin Reungpiman, who said the truck was parked in front of an apartment building next to the entrance of the Thalang museum.
He said that people were terrified the 18-wheeler might explode, levelling buildings over a wide area.
Arriving at the scene, police found the engine still running and the driver, Chalong Kaewpumchuang, asleep in the driver’s seat. The woke him up.
Mr Chalong told them the tanker was carrying oxygen, but there was nothing to fear. It was not smoke, he said, but vapour, produced by a safety venting system to ease pressure in the tank. “It’s harmless,” he said. “It won’t explode.”
He added that he had driven up from Haad Yai to deliver the oxygen to hospitals in Phuket, but had arrived too late for delivery, and had therefore decided to wait until morning.
After hearing the story, those residents present were relieved to be able to go back to bed. However, the police continued to get calls through the night from others who had spotted the “smoking truck”.