Employees of a junk recycling shop in the Thai capital, Bangkok, attempted to use a blow torch on what they believed was a disarmed WWII-era aerial bomb. An explosion, estimated at 200 kg of TNT, killed at least 7 and destroyed a warehouse.
Bangkok police believe the huge explosion that rocked the city’s Lad Prao district on Wednesday was caused by the mishandling of a wartime bomb found at a construction site, which had been brought to a scrap warehouse in the Bangkok suburbs.
The rusty object raised no suspicions with the workers, so they attempted to cut up the heavy object for further recycling using the open flame of a blow torch.
“The warehouse workers thought the bomb was no longer active so they used a metal cutter to cut into it, causing the explosion,” local police chief Virasak Foythong told AFP.
“We believe the bomb dates back to World War Two and weighed about 227 kg. As they probably did not know (what to do), they used a blow torch to try to cut open the bomb,” said police bomb squad chief, Kamthorn Auicharoen, as cited by Reuters.
Despite spending more than 70 years underground, the bomb’s explosive had not decayed. It went off, creating a three-meter deep and four-meter wide crater, damaging houses as far away as 500 meters. The blast caused a blaze as gas bottles stored at the warehouse also detonated.
At least seven people have been pronounced dead, and 20 who were injured were rushed to the Erawan medical center. Rescue teams are continuing to explore the debris of the warehouse and the damaged houses nearby.
Witnesses talk of pools of blood and body parts scattered round the blast site. Human remains have been found upto 200 meters from the explosion’s epicenter.
Most probably the bomb belonged to the American-British allied forces, which started to bomb Bangkok in 1942, during the Japanese occupation. Japan used Thailand as a forward staging post for invading Burma and Malaya.
Just this past Saturday, workers at another construction site in a different area of Bangkok found a similar bomb and sensibly handed it over to police explosive experts.
WWII-era bombs are regularly found in many Asian cities used by the Japanese as hubs for their campaign in South-East Asia, including the major regional centers of Hong Kong and Singapore, the Bangkok Post reported.