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Ayutthaya chemical warehouse fires may be arson

Written by World News

File photo by Industrial Work Department

Wednesday’s fires at warehouses containing chemical and industrial waste in Phachi district of Ayutthaya may have been set by arsonists, as one of the warehouses caught fire previously and evidence shows that it was arson on that occasion, said Jullapong Thaveesri, outgoing director-general of the Industrial Works Department.

In the past three months, three fires have been reported at these warehouses, he said, Jullapong has tendered his resignation, just five months before he reached retirement age in September without giving reason.

Meanwhile, Pol Maj-Gen Watcharin Phusit, commander of the Natural Resources and Environment Crime Suppression Division, said that warrants will be sought for the arrests of the owners of the warehouses in Phachi district and at the Win Process company in Rayong province.

He said they could face charges of possessing hazardous chemicals without a permit and illegal management of industrial waste.

Firemen, working in shifts throughout Wednesday night, used water and chemical foam to contain fires in two of the five warehouses at the site. The fire was brought under control at about 1am this morning.

The pungent smell from the burning chemicals and industrial waste posed an obstacle to the firemen. About 50 fire trucks were involved in the effort to contain the fire.

Meanwhile, the municipality of Phachi sub-district has announced that their district hospitals will remain closed, because of the high level of airborne chemical residue carried in the smoke.

A field hospital has, however, been set up at Kok Muang Temple to provide out-patient and emergency services. 28 people were treated yesterday, including nine who were suffering with eye and throat irritations.

Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong, the permanent secretary of public health, praised the medical emergency operations centre in Ayutthaya for its quick response to the fires, by evacuating all in-patients from Phachi district hospital to other hospitals or to their homes, and the immediate setting up of a field hospital.

He said that health officials have examined about 600 people within a kilometre of the burning warehouses and only 74 were suffering from mild eye irritations and nausea, adding that they will have lung X-rays taken later, to make sure that they have no other medical issues.

About 26 people were housed in an evacuation shelter and a number of them have now returned home, after their communities were declared safe.

Tap water in the villages is also safe for consumption.

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