By Pratch Rujivanarom
Thailand Port Authority director Kamolsak Phromprayoon yesterday revealed that the overall damage from the burning of toxic chemical cargo onboard the South Korean ship, KMTC Hongkong, at the Laem Chabang Seaport would exceed Bt100 million.
He said the fire had caused wide disruption to the port’s shipment transport and traffic, and there was a fallout on other shipments due to the chemical spill besides the large-scale impact on the local people’s health.
“We still cannot put an exact figure on the extent of damage from the fire, as the damage is widespread,” Kamolsak said.
“So, we would like to invite all business owners and people affected by the fire and chemical leakage to report their damage to the Thailand Port Authority in order to let us calculate the exact amount of damage and allow us to claim compensation from the owners of these toxic chemical shipments.”
As the number of affected stakeholders, who were yet to register and report their damage to the authorities, was large he said Thailand Port Authority has decided to extend |the registration period for another day.
He said people who had yet to register their damage, could do so by showing up at the any of three reporting centres – Laem Chabang City Municipality, Ban Na Community, and Laem Chabang Police Station – until 4.30pm today.
Meanwhile, Thailand Port Authority has been urged to set up a special working group with relevant agencies to investigate the full extent of the impact from the chemical contamination on people’s health and the environment.
Penchom Saetang, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (Earth), insisted that the authorities should press for compensation from the owners of the shipment to remedy the damage to people’s health and the ecosystem.
Claim full compensation
“There must be a full investigation into this incident in order to find the wrongdoers, calculate the total extent of environmental and health impacts from the incident and claim full compensation from the wrongdoers,” Penchom said.
She suggested that since such chemical leaks could have long-term environmental and health impacts on the affected people and ecosystems, the relevant agencies should set up a system to regularly check on the environment and people’s health after the incident.
“From the Pollution Control Department’s report, we notice that hazardous pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds, formaldehyde and chlorine gas have been released due to the burning of the chemicals and all of them can cause long-term health impacts such as cancer to those exposed to them,” she said.
“Therefore, it is very important for the authorities to keep a record of the long-term impacts to people and the environment, so that we can demand more compensation from the wrongdoers to cover future expenses to treat people’s sicknesses and clean up the leftover chemical contamination in the environment.”
Greenpeace country director for Thailand Tara Buakamsri suggested that Thai authorities should invite a third party to join the official investigation into the incident to publicly report on every aspect of this environmental disaster.
Tara added that all related agencies should step up their law-enforcement efficiency to ensure better prevention of the smuggling of toxic chemicals and other offences that could harm people’s health and environment from marine transportation in the future.