Deaths, injuries reported in tanker explosion at Thai shipyard

A huge explosion aboard an oil tanker killed at least two people including a Burmese national at a Thai shipyard and injured at least 10, while others were reported missing, the provincial governor and Marine Department of Thailand said Tuesday.

A video clip showed a fireball rising from the Smooth Sea 22 at around 9:20 a.m., said officials in Samut Songkram, a coastal province on the Gulf of Thailand southwest of Bangkok.

The ship was carrying more than 30,000 liters of bunker oil commonly used in marine and land-based steam power plants along with 2,500 liters of diesel fuel, said officials who had not yet identified a cause for the blast.

The tanker was docked at the Ruammitr Dockyard Co. Ltd., a shipyard on the Mae Klong River in Laem Yai subdistrict where welders were working on it as part of a maintenance procedure. Officials said the fire was extinguished by 3 p.m.

“We found two bodies which are being forensically examined. … We have to determine if they are Thai or of foreign origin,” Samut Songkram Gov. Somnuk Phromkeaw told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, adding that those injured were welders who were not among the tanker’s 17 crew members.

The provincial disaster relief center identified one of those killed as Tui, 36, of Myanmar. The identity of the second victim was not released, but the Marine Department reported that at least 10 were injured.

In a Facebook post, rescue worker Siridech Siricamhom said five people were missing as of 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, Somnuk and Marine Department officials noted that flammable products were stored on the tanker.

“But to find the cause, we have to set up an expert committee to investigate the case. The results should be known in 10 days,” said Puripat Teerakulpisut, the Marine Department’s deputy director-general.

Sorapong Paitoonpong, Marine Department acting chief, ordered the shipyard shut down after the explosion.

Marine scientists urged authorities to contain any oil spill from seeping into nearby mangrove and seashore surroundings, which are home to Bryde’s whales, mollusks and fishes.

The explosion was the second involving a Smooth Sea Co. Ltd. ship in Thailand in less than a year.

On March 9, 2022, the Smooth Sea 2 carrying 1.8 million liters of gasoline/alcohol car fuel and 1.3 million liters of diesel fuel exploded in Samut Prakan, near Bangkok, killing one and injuring three others.

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