Investigators have suggested that a blast that killed three workers at a fertilizer factory in Ho Chi Minh City last Friday was caused by “careless” handling of volatile chemicals and possible illegal production of firecrackers.
Most ingredients used to make fertilizers are volatile, the city fire service said in a statement Monday.
Colonel Le Phuoc Truong, in charge of economic management at the city police, said they are considering detaining Huynh Van Hai, director of Dang Huynh Company that owns the factory in HCMC's District 12, for questioning.
One worker, Nguyen Thi Cam Tu, 19, died at the hospital soon after the blast at 4 a.m.
Rescuers are still trying to recover the bodies of her mother Huynh Thi Tam, 36, and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thanh, 30, who were from the Mekong Delta’s Dong Thap Province.
Some body parts were found scattered around the blast site.
Investigators found the company was licensed to produce foliar fertilizers and flower protection sprays.
The factory occupies more than 430 square meters.
Workers would manually handle chemicals like potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, naphthalene acetic acid, monopotassium phosphate, ammonia, zinc, and sulfur.
All of them are ingredients for explosives too, the investigators said.
The workers would mix the chemicals in a certain ratio by hand, pour the mixture into bottles and cap them.
Then they would boil water on a mini gas cooker, dunk a plastic sheet into the boiling water, and paste it on the bottle caps.
The factory had around 500 kilograms of chemicals that went off.
Investigators have found no signs of an electrical short circuit.
Seven neighboring houses collapsed and five others partially while 106 houses in the neighborhood reported loss of roofs, cracked walls, and broken glass windows.
A neighbor and her 4-year-old daughter had to get treated at Cho Ray Hospital.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Van, the woman, broke a leg while the girl suffered hematoma under the skull after they were buried under bricks.
The city authorities have provided them with assistance of VND30 million (US$1,400) while families of the dead received VND90 million.
They also gave VND6 million to each of the three children of Thanh and Tam, the two dead workers, to pay their school fees and deposited VND10 million in each of their names in banks.
The owners of some of the damaged houses received VND1-2 million each.