Ombudsman urges the state to heal victims of fire at Ming Dih Chemical factory
Feasible solutions and recommendations on recurrence prevention also proposed
From the incident of massive explosion and fire at foam and plastic pellet manufacturing plant of Mingdi Chemical Co., Ltd., located in Soi King Kaew 21, Bang Phli Yai,
Bang Phli, Samut Prakan Province, on July 5, 2021, the explosion not only engulfed the entire factory but also caused extensive damage to buildings, houses, and property of the residents living within a radius of one to two-kilometre. Many firefighters were injured and one of them
was killed. Parts of the factory is used for chemicals and hazardous materials storage. Later, the report found that the factory had types of chemicals on the site for its production process, including Styrene monomer, solvent and flammable aromatic hydrocarbons stored in the tank. The fire and blast were caused by a burning enormous chemical storage tanks and it resulted in the toxic styrene and carbon monoxide fume, spreading out around a radius of 5 kilometers, affecting health hazards and contaminants in the environment.
The Thai Ombudsman considered that the incident and its impacts had greatly affected people and remedial actions must be taken urgently in a timely manner.
The Ombudsman therefore decided to launch an own-motion fact-finding and investigation into this matter, deemed to be detrimental to the general public, in accordance with the duties and powers stipulated in Article 32 of The Organic Act on Ombudsman B.E. 2560 (2017). Moreover,
in this case, it is absolutely necessary to integrate cooperation between government agencies to formulate explicit and systematic guidelines and remedial measures in various areas as well as the public relations to explain and give the general public understanding and awareness of
such government measures thoroughly.
On July 9, 2021, the Ombudsman (Assoc. Prof. Issaree Hunsacharoonroj) invited representatives of relevant agencies to attend the online meeting to jointly consider measures
to prepare the relief and remedial measures for people, suffered from the massive fire and explosion at a factory producing plastic foam and pellets in Samut Prakan. Participants were composed of Mr. Wanchai Kongkasem, Governor of Samut Prakan Province. along with representatives of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning, Council of Engineers, the Pollution Control Department (PCD), Department of Industrial Works, Office of Insurance Commission. The Samut Prakan provincial Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, Office of Labor Protection and Welfare, Provincial Public Health Office, Provincial Justice Office also attended the meeting.
In the meeting, it was found that the agencies have integrated cooperation
to provide full assistance to the sufferers. In terms of the ongoing chemical fire extinguishment,
a group of firefighters were active service at the site to closely monitor and prevent the reignition of the fire 24 hours a day, although the blaze has been extinguished. This was because residual amounts of the flammable chemicals, causing possible explosion, was still in the process of being cleared and moved. In respect of preparing 9 shelters for the local residents in the areas, Samut Prakan Province coordinated with two Subdistrict Administrative Organizations, Bang Chalong and Racha Thewa, to provide the emergency food supply and essential items for the affected residents. The Prime Minister’s Office granted 100,000 baht (3,000 United States Dollar approximately) to a sacrificing volunteer rescue worker who was killed in this disaster. In addition, Samut Prakan Province established a provincial incident command center with the governor
as president. The Governor assigned a District Chief Officer to work with the various relevant provincial and local agencies including the government, the private sector and the people in
an integrate way. Samut Prakan Province declared the factory and the surrounding area in
5 kilometre radius a disaster zone, so the Governor can activate emergency funds in the amount of 20 million baht to be disbursed as relief for those affected, according to Regulation of Ministry of Finance on Contingency Fund Advances for Assisting Disaster Affected People B.E. 2562 (2019). The District Chief Officer was appointed to chair the working group for reporting all the extensive damage and assign the municipality to survey the damage of each house.
For the affected people in the area of Bangkok, DDPM has allocated the budget, by drawing from Contingency Fund Advances under Regulation of Ministry of Finance, in order to recompense for the damage. Also, BMA offered the affected people the financial compensation in accordance with Order of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration on Relief for Disaster Affected People (No. 4) B.E. 2562 (2019) to pay for house rent, medical expenses, consolation, etc.
In addition, Office of Insurance Commission dealt with the matter of insurance of factory buildings, factory assets and surrounding damaged houses and coordinated with the Samut Prakan Provincial Prosecutor to set up the service point for people to file a claim for damages. All the claims for damages and losses were listed for compensation for a covered loss or policy event. The legal aid was also served to the affected people in order to protect the people’s rights to claim compensation The affected people were suggested to register the complaints at the public service point of Bang Kaeo Police Station.
Apart from the stated damages and losses, there were also the invisible damage to the ecosystems including contaminants in the air, ground water. In this respect, Samut Prakan provincial Office of Public Health voiced concern over health hazards from inhalation of hot air from the fire and carcinogenic Styrene monomer fumes, which not only irritates skin and mucous membranes but affects the central nervous system, auditory nerve system, liver, and kidney. After returning to normal, the provincial public health team will monitor the health condition of the affected residents for at least one year. According to the assessment of air quality and contamination, it was found that the air quality was at watchful level. The residents were required to wear N95 respirator masks.
As to moving the industrial chemical tanks, it was in the process of inspecting all obstruction at site and keeping the temperature of the tanks at a safe level in order to ease the transporting.