CHONBURI – More than a hundred people have been taken to hospital after an explosion and fire erupted aboard a container ship in eastern Thailand’s Laem Chabang sea port on Saturday.
The area has been declared a danger zone after a large cargo ship burst into flames following a loud bang from one of its containers at Laem Chabang port around dawn, resulting in more than a hundred people being treated in hospital.
More than 130 people were admitted to hospital, some complaining of irritation in the eyes and throat, others of a burning sensation on the skin, but there were no major injuries, according to the Ministry of Public Health
Local villagers close to the sea port were evacuated as some of the containers on fire were with hazardous chemicals.
More than 10 fire trucks, firefighters and rescue workers rushed to the port to douse the flames, which were engulfing containers on the South Korean container ship KMTC Hong Kong.
Red flames and clouds of thick black and white smoke poured out of the ship throughout the morning and early afternoon before the fire was brought under control.
Initial checks showed the blaze broke out in a load of cargo containing the chemical calcium hypochlorite, he said. “We closed the pier where the fire broke out and two others that were affected by the fire.”
Calcium hypochlorite is the main active ingredient of commercial bleaching powder, chlorine powder or chlorinated lime, used for water treatment and as a bleaching agent.
Port Authority of Thailand (PAT) director-general Kamolsak Promprayoon said forensic police, port officials and the owner of the ship would jointly investigate the incident.
Dr Witthaya Chokchaipaisarn, of Queen Savang Vadhana Memorial Hospital in Sri Racha, said at least 40 people sought treatment for burns and eye irritation at the hospital, which had set up a tent to take in patients.
Thongsuk Chantasorn, 63, head of the crew at another ship, told the Bangkok Post that he heard a loud bang and saw a container blown up into the sky with black thick smoke. More loud explosions followed. White rubber scraps were scattered over the areas. Workers who were exposed to them developed skin burns, he said.
The deep-sea port is an integral part of an ambitious $45 billion infrastructure scheme by Thailand’s junta known as the “Eastern Economic Corridor” (EEC) to transform the coastal area into a tech hub.
Over 7 million containers are transported through Laem Chabang port annually, according to the EEC’s website.
Under the new scheme, the port is due to expand with four new container berths, which the junta expects to more than double freight traffic to 18.1 million containers per year.
By Geoff Thomas