The tranquil Muno village in the Sungai Kolok district of the Narathiwat province was shaken by a catastrophic fireworks explosion in a local warehouse over the weekend. The blast resulted in waves of destruction across the area, leaving 12 people dead, 121 injured, and 292 houses with varying degrees of structural damage, with some reduced to mere rubble. These numbers were committed to public record on the official Facebook page of the provincial public relations office on Sunday.
Out of the dozen lives lost in the tragedy, the bodies of seven victims were claimed by their families to perform religious rites, while the remaining five were still at the Sungai Kolok Hospital waiting for identification. Fortunately, most of the injured survivors, numbering 111, returned home, while ten remain under medical care at Sungai Kolok Hospital, of which one is in a serious condition.
The calamitous incident is currently under the scrutiny of Narathiwat Governor, Sanan Pong-aksorn, who has personally examined the scene of the explosion. According to his authorized observations, the warehouse was initially a grocery shop before it was expanded into a storage unit. It is speculated that the warehouse was illicitly used to store fireworks.
The trigger for this disaster seems to be from the sparks produced during welding work at Weerawat Panit shop, which sought to manufacture shelves. As a result of the accident, the owner of the factory has been accused of negligence and has been summoned by the authorities, as hinted by Colonel Suthawet Thareethai, the police chief in Muno district. Alongside this, the transportation of the firecrackers to the factory, which occurred just before the explosion, is also under official investigation.
The explosion, caused by roughly 1,000 kilograms of gunpowder, carved out two holes about two meters deep and six meters wide on the ground. It seems that the local populace was unaware of the explosive materials stored in the warehouse, as the building was usually locked unless two trucks periodically arrived to offload goods.
In response to the crisis, a command center has been set up near the incident’s location to address the escalating number of complaints from the aggrieved, including those injured and people who suffered property damage. The damage radius of the explosion stretched out to obliterate 50 houses completely out of the 292 affected structures.
First-hand accounts from the rescue team led by Wichitchat Udomlarpcharoenkit, who arrived at the scene of utter destruction, detail the enormity of the disaster aftermath. His team came across a scene of destruction characterized by flaming houses, shops, and debris strewn across a wide area. Many vehicles became useless owing to their tires tear by flying debris, while heavy machinery was employed to extricate the dead and injured from collapsed houses.
An eyewitness account by Seksan Taesen adds a personal touch to the collective shock endured by the villagers. He recalls his house trembling from a thunderous noise, much like a massive earthquake, only to find a gaping hole in his roof and chaos outside.
Sadly, this is not the first time Thailand has endured such an explosion tragedy. Firework producing workshops have been prone to deadly incidents in the past, with another recent explosion in northern Chiang Mai city injuring 11 people just five days prior to the tragedy in Muno village. The cumulative weight of these disasters expresses the urgent need for reviewing the safety measures in place for handling explosive materials and improving the overall safety record in potentially hazardous sectors such as construction.