Map Ta Phut, May 6, 2012– A powerful explosion at the BST (Bangkok Synthetics Company) plant at Map Ta Phut, Thailand has reportedly resulted in 12 fatalities and more than a 100 injuries, say news reports from various sources. Hundreds more were evacuated when fumes and gases from the accident site began spreading to nearby areas. BST Elastomers ( an associate company of BST that actually operates the BST site at Map Ta Phut) has opened a special 24-hour Hotline, for all seeking help. A mobile medical unit was being dispatched to serve villagers living near the facility said reports.
The Map Ta Phut petrochemical hub, in Rayong province is one of the larger industrial parks in Asia, having petrochemical and other hydrocarbon processing plants of several companies. The present accident occurred in the BST plant that produces various kinds of synthetic rubber including BR (Butadiene Rubber) and SBR (Styrene Butadiene Rubber).
The incident apparently occured as a storage tank was being flushed using Toulene, a solvent to remove material before a product changeover operation. It is not clear how the tank caught fire, nor the root cause of the explosion. Initial estimates of damage are in the region of about Bt 1.7 billion (Thai Baht 1.7 billion) according to unconfirmed news reports. Officials from the Map ta Phut industrial park said that the ambient air was being monitored for contaminants and carcinogens and upto now, the levels were not alarming. Toluene is not carcinogenic although the vapors in sufficient concentration can cause eye and skin irritation. Locals who stay in the vicinity were concerned about the after effects.
Meanwhile, reports say that the Prime Minister of Thailand, Ms.Yingluck Shinawatra herself and other top govt officials summoned a meeting , where the seniormost management of BST was present, apparently to carry out mitigation efforts and investigate the cause of the disaster. A tri-partie committee has been formed to inspect the site. Damage at the BST site, as well as at the adjoining facilities will be inspected. A review of the laws governing industrial facilities, disaster and emergency preparedness and other areas is also being proposed apparently as a result of the accident.