Scores injured in Bangkok canal explosion

The Khlong Saen Saep water bus serves over 50,000 passengers daily: Source: Wikimedia

At least 67 people were injured in the Thai capital Bangkok’s eastern suburbs after a crowded water taxi’s engine exploded as it pulled into a pier at dawn.

Most of those injured suffered from minor burns, police reported, although two passengers were seriously hurt by flying debris and 14 were still in hospital, according to Bangkok’s police commissioner Sanit Mahathavorn. He said the explosion occurred as the boat reached the Wat Thepleela pier in one of the capital’s working-class neighbourhoods, causing panic.

Reports suggest that a fuel leak caused the blast which shook the wooden boat but left the hull largely intact.

Water taxis, which cost less than US$1 for a ride, are a common sight around Bangkok and are a popular means to bypass the congestion and reach areas not served by the two metro lines.

Video posted by the Khao Sod newspaper shows the crowded boat pulling in at Wat Thep Leela pier in eastern Bangkok emitting clouds of black smoke from its stern. Apparently oblivious passengers try to board the boat before it is rocked by an explosion.

People can be seen leaping to the pier to safety.

Witnesses interviewed on Thailand’s Channel 3 television described a loud bang that rang out as the boat was docking, sending some passengers racing for the pier while others took the drastic step of leaping into the canal’s filthy water.

“We still don’t know how it exploded,” the director of Family Transport, the private company which operated the boat, told the channel, adding that the boats had been using gas-powered engines for around eight years.

Two Myanmar citizens and one Japanese national were among those injured, the Erawan medical emergency centre said.

The boat used diesel and liquefied natural gas, Khao Sod said. The company, which runs 25 boats, said it would not use LNG until an investigation was completed.

More than 100,000 people use the canal boats in Bangkok every day, according to statistics from 2012.