Experts enter burned-out ammo dump

KORAT (AFP): Thai army experts today entered the smoking ruins of a badly damaged ammunition dump to search for victims of yesterday’s massive explosions that are thought to have killed at least 13 people and injured 80. The warehouse complex in Pak Chong District was torn apart yesterday when a truck overturned, setting off a deadly chain reaction that engulfed a large part of the complex. Blasts rocked the area for the entire day and into the night, shaking the ground for kilometers around and sending fireballs and plumes of black smoke high into the sky. Local Mayor Komkrit Limpanyalert said some 28 army ordnance experts were able to enter the ammunition store after the explosions died down during the night and it was decided that the site was relatively safe. “It’s likely that it will take several hours before we know how many soldiers died at the blast site,” he said, adding that the army officers would also attempt to recover victims’ bodies. Among the dead were said to be 12 soldiers from the complex, as well as a 70-year-old resident of a nearby village who suffered a heart attack during the explosions. Deputy Public Health Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said, after an inspection of two local hospitals, that 80 people had been injured, and that seven were in a serious condition. Army Commander Gen Surayud Chulanont yesterday attributed the blast to mishandling of ageing and unstable weapons and ammunition, which had been seized from the area along the Cambodian border, and which had been brought to Pak Chong for destruction. He said that the army would set up a inquiry to examine the cause of the blast, which destroyed seven of the 45 warehouses in the complex. Some of the tens of thousands of people who fled their homes at the height of the explosions began trickling back today to check on the damage, but many were still fearful of more blasts. Euem Donpadoor, a 49-year-old food vendor, said, “I’m afraid. I don’t believe that the bombs are gone from this area. I don’t think this area is safe.” Returning villagers were warned to cover their faces with damp cloths against the fumes that drifted over the region, and not to drink from local waterways, which might be contaminated. The Public Welfare Department has announced that it will pay 12,000 baht compensation for each death, with an additional 25,000 baht if the victim was the head of a family. In addition, residents whose homes were destroyed will be paid 25,000 baht, while evacuated villagers will be paid 2,000 baht for the inconvenience.

Phuket News
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