An explosion at a firework factory in central Thailand killed at least 20 people on Wednesday, a rescue worker said.
The exact death toll was not immediately clear but around 15 to 17 people are estimated to have been killed, according to Kritsada Manee-In, a rescue worker with the Samerkun Suphan Buri Rescue Foundation.
The blast, whose cause has yet to be determined, took place in a rural area in Suphan Buri province, about 120 kilometers north of the capital Bangkok.
The factory operated from a farmhouse, serving as a storage facility for gunpowder and other raw materials used in the production of fireworks.
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who is currently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was briefed by phone and called for a swift investigation.
Despite the devastation at the fireworks factory, there was a fortunate lack of additional damage to nearby houses or the surrounding community, according to the police.
Disturbing images shared by the local rescue service depicted a grim scene, with metal debris scattered across the ground. A towering plume of black smoke billowed into the sky, serving as a visual testament to the severity of the explosion. The local community found itself grappling with the aftermath of this tragic event.
The incident occurred less than a month before Chinese New Year in February, when demand for fireworks was strong.
In an official statement posted online, Prime Minister Srettha expressed his sorrow for the families of those killed.
Srettha also ordered an investigation into whether the workshop was operating illegally as well as the cause of the incident.
As per the reports, approximately 20 workers had reported for their morning shift at the factory. The factory owner, who was not among the casualties, had left to deliver fireworks to customers when the incident occurred.
Beyond the pyrotechnic industry, Thailand grapples with broader safety challenges, particularly in the construction sector. The nation has a lamentable safety record, and fatal accidents are regrettably frequent.
According to records, 24 explosions took place at fireworks factories and warehouses in Thailand over the past 15 years, between 2008 and 2023, with each incident causing extensive damage, including deaths and injuries.
In July last year, a large explosion at a fireworks warehouse in southern Thailand killed at least 10 people and wounded more than 100.