Blaze at Thai chemical factory kills 12

A large blaze at a chemical factory in eastern Thailand killed 12 people, injured more than 100 and spewed toxic smoke into the air, the health ministry said on Sunday.

Hundreds of residents had to be evacuated after the fire, which was caused by an explosion at the factory in Rayong province, sent a plume of black acrid smoke into the sky on Saturday.

Firefighters quelled the blaze but health officials continued to monitor air quality amid concerns poisonous fumes may still seep into the air.

A health ministry statement said 12 people had died in the explosion and ensuing fire while 129 were injured, mainly suffering burns.

The majority of the victims are believed to be factory workers.

"Doctors said 12 were killed in yesterday's explosion but we can only confirm 10 so far," Map Ta Phut police Lieutenant Colonel Charoen Vititkornkul said.

"Police forensic teams are searching for clues to what happened and we are also looking for any more bodies," he said, adding police were ready to evacuate more local residents if necessary.

Rayong province, some 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Bangkok, is one of Thailand's biggest industrial areas.

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