Fires and a heavy explosion at a Thai toluene facility killed 12 workers, injuring 129. The cause incident that took place on Saturday afternoon at the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate during a heavy storm is still under investigation.
Rayong/Thailand – Speakers of BST Elastomers confirmed that the fire broke out during a heavy storm on Saturday afternoon at a toluene vessel inside the facility. Although emergency response efforts were immediately activated, nine workers were immediately killed at the site with further three dying in hospitals. 141 people were injured during the blast, 99 of which have already been released from hospitals. The fire was under control at around six p.m..
Cause of The Accident Still Unknown
The cause of the accident is still unknown: At the time of the explosion, the facility was in full shut down and the process had been previously cleaned using toluene to dry out moisture. This is the last step in the standard shutdown procedure during a product grade switching process, BST's Managing Director Chaiyot Wongphyat stated. Local media quote an environment officer at BST, who assumes that the toluene might have ignited after being exposed to excessive heat.
BST operations at Map Ta Phut were among 76 international projects with a total investment sum of US $ 12 billion that where postponed in 2009 for environmental and health safety concerns.
Thousands Evacuated Because of Toluene Smokes and Fumes
Toluene is a solvent used in synthetic rubber production and it is not classified as toxic or carcinogenic. Smoke or toluene fumes may cause irritation to eyes, skin, and the respiratory system, and may cause sleepiness, dizziness, and vomiting, the company stated. In the wake of the incident, thousands of people in surrounding communities were evacuated.
Chaiyot said the company deeply regrets the unfortunate incident and will take responsibility for medical care and the impact to the surrounded communities. BST Elastomers Company Limited produces synthetic rubbers for automobile tyres, automobile parts, shoe soles, sporting goods, and other rubber products.