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Tragedy strikes: deadly explosion at Thai fireworks factory claims 22 lives

Deadly blast at Thai’s Suphan Buri fireworks factory: A second explosion claims 22 lives, raising concerns over safety standards and calls for urgent industry regulation.

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THAILAND: A devastating explosion at a fireworks factory in Suphan Buri on Wednesday (17 Jan), has left at least 22 people dead, with around 10 individuals still missing.

The incident occurred at the same factory where a blast took place in 2022, resulting in one fatality and three injuries.

The explosion rocked village Moo 3 in Tambon (subdistrict) Sala Khao of Muang district at approximately 3:30 pm, causing widespread destruction.

The force of the blast scattered debris in a radius of 100 meters, leaving human remains strewn across the area.

Residents, who witnessed the horrifying incident, reported that about 20 workers had arrived at the factory in the morning, and none emerged after the explosion.

Provincial governor Nattapat Suwanprateep expressed the grim reality, stating, “We cannot tell whether all the workers were killed. The officials are entering the site to investigate. They have not found any survivors.”

Shockingly, 20 of the deceased have been identified so far, comprising 12 women and 8 men.

The owner of the factory, fortunately, escaped the tragedy as he was away delivering fireworks to customers at the time of the explosion, according to Thongsuk Suenui, deputy chairman of Tambon Sala Khao municipality.

The factory, operating out of a farmhouse, stored gunpowder and other raw materials for fireworks. Reports indicate that the operator had sought permission from relevant agencies and a public hearing was conducted.

This isn’t the first time the factory has faced such a catastrophic event.

In November 2022, an explosion at the same facility claimed one life. Authorities are now investigating the cause of both incidents.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was briefed on the explosion and urged a swift investigation.

His office released a statement saying, “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.”

24 explosions in factories and warehouses over 15 years

Records reveal a disturbing trend in Thailand, with 24 explosions occurring at fireworks factories and warehouses over the past 15 years, resulting in numerous fatalities and injuries.

Environmental and health expert, Sonthi Kotchawat, pointed out that many illegal fireworks facilities lacking standards are scattered throughout the country.

Following a tragic incident in Narathiwat in July 2023, where 11 people were killed and 389 were injured, Sonthi emphasized the failure of relevant agencies to proactively address the issue.

He called for a reassessment and overhaul of rules and regulations, along with increased penalties for violators, to prevent history from repeating itself.

Sonthi outlined safety measures for fireworks factories, including the establishment of a “bubble zone,” one-story stand-alone buildings made of inflammable materials, proper ventilation systems, and other precautions.

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