BANGKOK - An explosion ripped through a scrapyard in Bangkok's Bang Khen district yesterday, killing seven victims and injuring 20 others, after workers unknowingly cut open an aerial bomb from World War II.
"Such a bomb usually weighs about 500 pounds (227 kilograms) and has the power to damage (everything) within a 500-metre radius," Pol Colonel Kamthorn Uicharoen of the Office of the Forensic Science Police said.
As of press time, the scrapyard was cordoned off as explosive-ordnance officials scoured the place. "We have found the explosion caused a three-metre-deep and eight-metre-wide hole in the ground," Kamthorn said.
Witnesses told police the fatal blast took place after the scrapyard bought what looked like a thick oval-shaped iron bar and tried to cut it with gas. The bar reportedly weighed over 200 kilograms.
"The owner and workers of the scrapyard might have mistaken the aerial bomb as a simple steel bar," Kamthorn said.
Metropolitan Police Division 2 commander Maj-General Suranit Prombutr, said this explosion was an accident. He confirmed the incident was definitely not related to political unrest, which has been blamed for several other recent blasts.
According to Bang Khen District Office's director Kris Kiartpanachart, the scrapyard is located inside Wat Trai Rattanaram Community. Glass windows of several local houses were shattered by the blast.
Nattanan Panthong, chair of the community, quoted a local as saying construction workers found the oval-shaped iron item while they were digging a hole for a foundation pillar at a nearby construction site.
"So, they picked it up. Four of them then headed to the scrapyard in the hope of trading the item for cash," Nattanan said.
The scrapyard had reportedly offered Bt10 (S$0.39) per kilo. Before any payment was made, scrapyard workers were told to cut the item to check its quality.
Nattanan identified one of the sellers as Jeerasak Tabtimtong, who was killed in the blast.
Deputy Bangkok Governor Pusadee Tamthai warned people not to collect suspicious items they have discovered.
"It's best to alert security officials for safety reasons," she said.
Kris said the explosion rocked the scrapyard at around 12.15pm and officials managed to put out a fire there by 1pm.
His district office will today set up a tent near the scene to facilitate victims filing complaints with police and seeking help.
Many victims are now receiving treatment at the Nopparat Rajathanee Hospital, the Mayo Hospital, and the Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital.