BANGKOK: Eight people died and seven others were injured on Sunday night (Mar 13) in a chemical accident in the Thai capital of Bangkok.
The incident, which took place in the basement of Siam Commercial Bank’s (SCB) head office, was triggered by workers who accidentally activated its fire-extinguishing system while working on it, SCB quoted police as saying.
The system contains the fire-fighting agent Pyrogen, which extinguishes fire by decreasing oxygen, the company said in its statement.
Pyrogen is used in places where putting out a fire with water would damage documents or electrical equipment. The company advises against using it the aerosol in occupied rooms and says "accidental exposure should be limited to five minutes".
"The fire protection system's duty is to release a type of gas that causes the insufficiency of oxygen, which will prevent fire outbreaks from flaring," said Vichit Suraphongchai, chairman of the executive committee of SCB.
"But in this incident, there is people inside and lacks oxygen, so people suffocated, resulting in deaths and injuries. Therefore the incident is not caused by a fire or any explosion."
Local media reported that thick smoke billowed out of the basement of SCB’s head office on Ratchadaphisek Road, and that the building’s security system might have delayed the rescue operation.
Bangkok's Erawan emergency medical centre said five people were killed at the scene while three died in hospital. Seven workers were injured and remained in hospital, the centre added.
One picture published by local media showed firefighters wearing masks and handkerchiefs over their faces extracting victims on stretchers from inside a building thick with haze.
Another showed four bodies wrapped in white blankets outside the building.
"SCB would like to express its sympathy to those injured and killed," the bank said in its statement, adding it was cooperating with police.
The bank said the rest of the building was not affected and was open for business.