BANGKOK – Police have reported that at least 60 passengers were injured early Saturday when the engine of a Bangkok water taxi exploded as the boat approached its dock at Wat Thepleela Pier.
Among the injured were three foreigners, including a Japanese male and two women from Myanmar, according to the city’s Erawan medical emergency center. The rest were identified as Thai nationals.
The city’s Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said at noon that 66 people had been hurt and were being treated at five hospitals.
The boat was ferrying about 70 people on an early morning route through the city’s canals in a neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok, said police Lt. Col. Chaithanan Jirapiyaset.
He said the explosion occurred as the boat reached the Wat Thepleela Pier, in one of the capital’s working-class neighborhood, causing panic that prompted several passengers to jump into the water for safety.
The boat was one of many commuter vessels that ply the city’s canals and waterways. Many of the boats are old and often overcrowded but accidents are not common.
Police were questioning the engineers who assembled the company’s boats operated by Family Transport (2002) Co, to see whether the vessels had been inspected regularly and whether their tanks met the standards, said Pol Gen Satit.
Booths were set up as contact centers at the Wat Thep Leela pier and at Hua Mak police station so people could check the victims’ names and notify authorities of any missing persons.
Nat Chubchai, deputy director-general of the Marine Department, which supervises marine transport, said the cause was likely a gas leak but authorities had yet to find out how it happened.
“We will set up a panel to look into the incident. As for reports of missing persons, divers have confirmed initially there were no victims in the water.”
Family Transport has 70 boats plying the Saen Saep canal. There were unconfirmed reports that all of its 30 LNG-powered boats have been suspended from service.
But Deputy Transport Minister Ormsin Chivapruck clarified at noon that Family Transport was told to switch to using diesel on all of its boats and keep providing services normally as a service suspension would affect a lot of people.
Family Transport managing director Chaovalit Metayaprapas said the company would take responsibility for all medical costs and damage.
He explained that his company had been using LNG without incident for some time.
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