At least five Cambodians, two of them children, were among those killed in a horrific accident on Wednesday when a World War II-era bomb exploded at a scrap metal warehouse in Bangkok, a Cambodian official said yesterday.
The massive 225-kilogram bomb, a remnant of Allied air raids on Thailand’s capital, killed at least seven people and injured at least 19, according to Thai officials.
The bomb was found at a construction site by builders and taken to the scrap merchant, where workers, thinking it had been defused, tried to take it apart with a blowtorch.
A video of the aftermath of the blast shows investigators picking through the rubble amid thick smoke and a huge crater in the centre of what used to be the warehouse.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok had told his office that five Cambodian nationals were among as many as 10 confirmed killed in the blast.
“We received information from our embassy in Bangkok, confirming that five Cambodian people were killed, two children being among them,” he said. “Five Thais were also killed, 16 wounded, and two are missing.”
The warehouse in Soi Lat Plakhao 72 in Bang Khen district was operating without a licence, according to Thai officials, but had been in business for more than 10 years.
Bangkok deputy police chief Ake Angsananond said yesterday that the body parts of a young girl, who would be the eighth victim, were discovered as police continued to search the building debris. He said up to 20 people were now thought to have been injured.
Local media reported four of the Cambodian victims were from Oddar Meanchey province’s Preah Neth Preah district and a fifth from Siem Reap province’s Krolanh district.
A spokeswoman for Bangkok’s Erewan Emergency Center, where the injured are being treated, told the Post yesterday afternoon that seven deaths had been confirmed and another, a young girl, was presumed dead.
There are “19 injured and seven dead”, the spokeswoman said. “Eight [are thought to be dead], but we have not confirmed this.”
“The workers at the warehouse thought the bomb was no longer active, so they used a metal cutter to cut into it, causing the explosion,” local police commander Virasak Foythong said.
The Thai Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Kuong said his office had not yet received detailed information about the deceased.
“We don’t have detailed information about the incident yet as our ambassador has been working with his Thai counterparts at the site of the explosion,” he added.
The deaths come after seven Cambodians were killed by a falling beam at a construction site in Thailand’s Samut Prakan province in February. Four of the seven – employed by Italian-Thai Development Co – were later revealed to have crossed into Thailand illegally to work.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BANGKOK POST AND AFP