A factory chimney at the Bangchak Petroleum oil refinery spews fire as the sky above grows black with thick smoke from a blaze caused by an explosion there yesterday morning. SOMCHAI POOMLARD
5/07/2012 at 01:35 AM by Bangkokpost
Residents around Bangchak oil refinery in Phra Khanong district are living in fear and anxiety, worried their health will be affected by toxic pollutants carried by the wind after yesterday's refinery blast and fire. The blaze, which broke out at the oil refinery operated by Bangchak Petroleum Pcl in Soi Sukhumvit 64 about 7am yesterday, has prompted concerns about after-effects caused by pollution. Residents in Soi Sukhumvit 62, who are still assessing the damage, said this was the second time an explosion from the refinery has rocked the area. The first explosion took place early last year. Prakhanong Pittayalai School, which is nearby, was closed immediately after the explosion, with about 2,600 students returning home. The fire broke out after the blast, sending a thick column of smoke into the air. Residents told the Bangkok Post they are still worried about their health. "We are worried that the air around here could be contaminated following the explosion," said 39-year-old Rungthip Kaewdee. "And during the rainy season, we are not sure whether the rainwater will be safe." Ms Rungthip was looking after her six-month-old niece when she heard the explosion, which damaged the ceiling of her house. Dishes and glasses in the kitchen were left broken and scattered on the floor. "I ran out of the house to see what was happening. I saw the thick smoke billowing in the air. I thought immediately that it must be the refinery exploding again," she said. Ms Rungthip said she remembered the explosion at the refinery last year. Unlike yesterday's blast, that explosion did not damage her house. However, it left her feeling rattled. "One year later, it has happened again. I worry how many times we will have to go through this," she said. Ms Rungthip said staff from the Bangchak oil refinery visited her house to survey the damage. They promised to pay for repairs. Saengchai Mukwilai, 32, another resident in the area, said he is also worried about the risk of toxic pollutants in the air. Mr Saengchai said the blast caused long, deep cracks in the walls of his house. His 67-year-old mother was in a state of panic for hours afterwards. Bangchak refinery called in medical staff from Bumrungrad Hospital to check the health of residents. Dr Thanakrit Chintavorn, from Bamrungrad Hospital, said four elderly people suffered eye and skin irritations, headaches and breathing problems. Noppamas Chaisawat, 58, said she was treated for eye irritation after the explosion. "I am still shocked about the accident," she said. Sukanya Phetcharat, assistant to the deputy director of Prakhanong Pittayalai School, said she is also concerned about possible contamination as she can still smell smoke from the oil refinery. Officials from the Pollution Control Department yesterday checked air quality at the school. Ms Sukanya said she will wait for the results of their tests before deciding when to reopen the school.