A preliminary investigation has revealed that at least half a tonne of explosives exploded at a fireworks factory in Thailand.

The explosion at a fireworks factory in Thailand’s Suphanburi province occurred at 3.30 pm, killing 23 workers instantly. The incident caused damage to four residential houses located 300 metres from the factory grounds. The power of the blast sent debris flying in a 100-metre radius, with human remains found everywhere, the Bangkok Post reported.

The incident probably occurred in the fireworks production and packaging area, as confirmed by the discovery of 22 explosion craters in the area,” Police Major General Kamthorn Auichareon, head of the Police Scientific Centre for Crime Detection, told the media.

The source of the fire originated from a warehouse containing gunpowder, sulphur and other chemicals, as police identified a crater 1 metre deep and measuring 5 metres wide and 5.3 metres long. After assessing the size of the crater, the investigation concluded that 500 kilogrammes of explosives were stored at the site.

The explosives stored in the factory are likely to have caused the explosion, which covered a radius of 1.5 kilometres,” Major General Kamthorn said, adding that a detailed investigation is underway to find out the exact cause of the explosion.

According to a police statement, the current incident is not the first. In November 2022, there was also an explosion at this factory. As a result of the resulting fire, one worker was killed, and three others were seriously injured. Following the incident, the factory had to temporarily suspend operations but has since resumed production of fireworks.

Local residents who expressed their opinions to media representatives stressed that in 2021, at a public hearing, the majority of villagers voted in favour of the factory owner, expressing support for the opening of the factory. Residents justified the decision by the fact that they live far away from the plant. And family members, mostly farmers, could increase their income by being employed at the plant.

A source from the Industry Ministry said that despite the need for annual licences to operate, the factory has never been inspected.

Minister of Social Development and Human Security Warawut Silpa-Archa said 23 deaths from 17 families had been confirmed. The ministry will provide compensation to repair homes and organise a mental health team to look after the mental health of the bereaved families.

Debris is scattered near the site of an explosion that killed 23 people in Suphanburi (Photo: Sakchai Lalit)

The Banharn-Jamsai Silpa-Archa Foundation will provide children whose parents died in the incident with full funding for their education until they graduate. The children range in age from eight to 18 years old.

Anukul Pidkaev, permanent secretary for social development, announced that the ministry has set up a special team to provide assistance to those affected by the incident.

Social workers will closely monitor the condition of the families of the victims for seven days. The ministry plans to work with the Ministry of Health to provide mental health care.

The ministry will conduct a damage assessment to determine what support the victims need. In the long term, it plans to improve living conditions and provide vocational training.

Prime Minister Settha Thavisin has expressed his intention to analyse legal issues to understand possible legislative adjustments. The aim is to bring small-scale fireworks manufacturers under the control of the Ministry of Industry, requiring compliance with accepted safety standards.

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