A large explosion at an ammunition storage base in Thailand has killed at least one person and injured dozens, with more reported missing. Thousands of people within a 15 kilometer radius of the blast were evacuated and more than 1,000 of them would be forced to spend the night in shelters.
Explosions and fires raged all day at the complex of military ammunition warehouses in northeastern Thailand. Thousands of nearby residents were evacuated as firefighters battled the blaze.
Thailand's Interior Minister Purachai Piumsombun told reporters the situation is under control. But he says rescue teams are still working to clear unexploded bombs and mines from the military compound. As a result, about 1,000 of those evacuated will have to spend the night in shelters.
The minister says the explosion was an accident and had nothing to do with sabotage. He says the disaster affected an area 20 kilometers wide. The explosions began at midmorning when a truck loaded with ordnance blew up, touching off a series of blasts.
Witnesses saw flames shoot up more than 100 meters above the site, and explosions could be seen spreading across the 160 hectare compound for hours after the first blast.
In the afternoon, the Red Cross appealed for blood donations, saying it had run out of blood to treat the injured.
Thai officials say the military compound had 44 warehouses storing thousands-of-tons of ammunition, gunpowder, and land mines. They said about one-fourth of the structures had been destroyed.
The compound is in Nakhon Ratchasima province - about 150 kilometers northeast of the Thai capital. It has been the site of other munitions explosions in the past, which were usually attributed to negligence or excessively hot weather.