An explosion aboard a docked cargo ship at Laem Chabang Pier injured 133 people and left a cloud of noxious formaldehyde gas hanging in the air.
A Royal Thai Navy helicopter, tugboat and patrol boat were deployed to assist port firefighters in battling the Saturday morning blaze aboard the Chinese-registered freighter at Pier A2.
The explosion sent smoke, chemical droplets, shards of steel and other materials flying falling from the sky over a radius of about 1 kilometer, leaving several crew members with cuts and minor injuries. Residents downwind from the fire were evacuated due to thick, noxious smoke.
Laem Chabang Port authorities said that the container which caught fire was in the bow of a KMTC LINE ship. It carried 676 containers and 463 of them were unloaded at Laem Chabang Port. The other 35 containers were supposed to be unloaded at another port. It is thought that they contained general products since the parts that were blown out by the explosion included items like plastic and toys.
According to safety measures at Laem Chabang Port, ships carrying chemical containers should be moored at a hazardous product warehouse immediately. Port Director Yuthana Mokkao said the container that exploded was not located in the area of the ship allocated to dangerous goods.
Hours after the fire was out, the Pollution Control Department said gaseous formaldehyde was measured over safe limits in Sriracha. Another “volatile organic department” also was determined to hanging in the air at up to 2.4 parts per million, over the safe level of 0.9 ppm.
The PCD said the fumes lingering from the smoke could cause respiratory and eye irritation.
The ship carrying goods from Hong Kong and South Korea out of Shanghai had docked Friday night and the explosion occurred at 6:40 the next morning.
The fire injured 133 people who were admitted to five local hospitals. Most of them suffered skin irritation, respiratory tract irritation and eye irritation, but the symptoms were not severe. 37 people remained in hospitals to allow doctors to monitor their condition but now all have been treated and released
Officials reported there is no longer a problem for people who live within the radius of 15 kilometers of the fire site after the smoke faded away.
Laem Chabang police chief Pol. Col. Preecha Somsatan said a police forensics team is investigating the cause of the explosion.