Residents within a 5 km radius of the Ming Dih plastic and pellet factory in Bangkok, Thailand, have been ordered to evacuate following an explosion at around 3am local time on 5 July 2021, and an ongoing fire.
One rescue worker has been killed and 62 people injured, including 12 involved in firefighting and rescue efforts, according to AP. The explosion also damaged around 70 houses. Chailit Suwannakitpong, a local disaster prevention official, told AP that while the fire had been brought under control by mid-morning, a styrene monomer storage tank is still ablaze. Helicopters have attempted to control the fire by dumping fire retardant onto the tank, but without success.
Suwannakitpong added that the authorities have ordered the evacuations over fears of the adverse effects of styrene monomer vapours and the risks of another explosion. Styrene vapour can cause serious irritation of the skin, eyes, and the upper respiratory tract, as well as nausea and vomiting. It is a neurotoxin which can be fatal at high levels, and a suspected carcinogen. The authorities are monitoring air quality. The prime minister may order cloud seeding to cause rainfall to bring any pollutants down from the atmosphere, and officials have cautioned residents about drinking rain and river water following a downpour.
The cause of the explosion is as yet unknown.
A styrene release from a tank at an LG Polymer plant in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, India, in May 2020 resulted in 12 deaths and more than 3,000 people being adversely affected. This incident was blamed on a lack of adequate refrigeration and the failure to maintain a sufficient level of inhibitor in the styrene solution, leading to runaway polymerisation, the rapid rise in temperature and vapour emission.