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Forensic personnel inspect the site of an explosion that ripped through a firework warehouse in Sungai Kolok district Narathiwat province on July 30, 2023. — AFP
Forensic personnel inspect the site of an explosion that ripped through a firework warehouse in Sungai Kolok district Narathiwat province on July 30, 2023. — AFP

The death toll from a powerful explosion that levelled an unlicensed fireworks warehouse in southern Thailand rose to at least 10 on Sunday, the local governor said, as police sought the owner on charges of negligence.

The blast Saturday afternoon in the town of Sungai Kolok was believed to have been caused by welding during construction work on the building.

More than 100 people were injured in the blast, which left only twisted metal beams still standing as rescue workers picked over the debris, with local media reporting hundreds of homes were also seriously damaged.

“We have identified 10 people and found parts of two bodies which we cannot identify yet,” Narathiwat provincial governor Sanan Pongaksorn told a press conference Sunday.

“We are sending to forensics to do DNA tests but primary reports said they were different [people],” he added.

Sanan had previously said the blast was believed to have been caused by a “technical error” during welding.

Police on Sunday said they were still investigating the cause, adding they believed the facility was not licensed to store fireworks.

Provincial commander Police Major General Chalermporn Khamkhiew said firecrackers had been delivered shortly before the explosion.

“We are investigating if those firecrackers were transported legally or illegally,” he said.

“As of now, we do not see any licence for possession of firecrackers or firecracker sales,” he said.

“We assume the factory has no licence.”

People look at the aftermath of destroyed homes the day after an explosion ripped through a firework warehouse in Sungai Kolok district Narathiwat province on July 30, 2023. — AFP
People look at the aftermath of destroyed homes the day after an explosion ripped through a firework warehouse in Sungai Kolok district Narathiwat province on July 30, 2023. — AFP

The blast detonated roughly 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of gunpowder, he said, leaving two holes roughly two metres deep and six metres (20 feet) wide.

“We have issued a summons to the owner of the factory with the charge of negligence, which caused the accident,” said Colonel Suthawet Thareethai, police chief in Muno district.

“We are waiting for him to come.”

Officials said a command centre had been established not far from the scene, and authorities had already received 365 complaints from those who had been injured or had their homes and property damaged.

Damage to government offices and private schools was also reported, they added.

Houses destryoed

Police said that of the 115 people injured in the blast, 106 had been discharged. The condition of those remaining in the hospital was not known.

A fire sparked by the explosion was brought under control late Saturday.

On Sunday, residents surveyed the wreckage where their homes once stood as officers and emergency crews sifted through the rubble.

“I have nothing left,” said Samsueya Chuenchompoo, whose house was destroyed.

“I don´t even have a roof over my head now. When there was a flood, I still could survive but now I really have nothing left.”

Another affected resident, Sudarat Nooliteh, said her home had disappeared.

“I have no place to sleep. I have no food. I have no money,” she said.

Southern military commander Lieutenant General Santi Sakhutanark said the army would “provide manpower and equipment” for the recovery and clean-up operation.

Explosions at workshops producing firecrackers and other pyrotechnics are not uncommon in Thailand.

Saturday´s deadly blast comes just five days after 11 people were reportedly injured when a fireworks factory exploded in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The Southeast Asian kingdom also has a poor safety record in the construction sector and deadly accidents are common.

Last month two people were killed when a bridge under construction in Bangkok collapsed onto traffic.

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