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The BBC's Patrick Walker
"Estimates put the cost of damage at $13m"
 real 28k

Friday, 3 December, 1999, 05:51 GMT
Thai refinery explodes
The force of the explosion was felt several kilometres away The force of the explosion was felt several kilometres away

A fire following an explosion at an oil refinery in Thailand has killed two men, injured 15, and caused more than $12m damage.

Four out of nine oil tanks exploded and firefighters had to battle to prevent flames engulfing the whole refinery.

The force of the explosion at the Thai Oil Company plant 70km (40 miles) southeast of Bangkok, was felt in nearby towns several kilometres away.

Firefighters struggled to prevent the fire spreading further It will take a day to put out the fire
The two men who died, both Thais, were security guards on patrol when the explosion occurred just before midnight.

Some of the injured were suffering from serious burns.

Thick black smoke filled the air as dawn broke. Thai Oil managing director, Chulchit Bunyaketu, said it would take about a day to put out the fire.

He said 30 million litres of petrol stored in the four burned-out tanks had been destroyed.

Sabotage ruled out

"Initial investigations found that the explosion was caused by fire sparks. But we do not know yet exactly what the reason was. But we have ruled out sabotage," Mr Chulchit added.

Firefighters struggled to prevent the fire spreading to a fifth tank by spraying it with foam.

Mr Chulchit said carbon monoxide fumes had escaped into the atmosphere, but they were being blown out to sea instead of towards the town of Sri Racha, 7km (four miles) away.

Officials of the state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) said petrol stored in undamaged tanks would be removed to safety.

They said they expected no disruptions to supply of oil products thanks to adequate stocks.

Thai Oil is 49% owned by PTT, while the Chowkwanyun family owns 26%, Shell 15% and Caltex 4.75%.

It is currently enduring a painful restructuring process in a bid to reduce debts of $1.85bn

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