A massive explosion at a factory on the outskirts of Bangkok has killed at least one person and injured 11 more, prompting the evacuation of a wide area over fears of poisonous fumes and the possibility of more denotations.

The fire broke out at around 3am at a foam and plastic pellet manufacturing factory just outside Bangkok near Suvarnabhumi Airport, blowing out windows of surrounding homes and sending debris raining from the air.

Firefighters used helicopters to dump water on hard-to-access areas in the large complex.

By mid-morning the main blaze at the Ming Dih Chemical factory had been brought under control, but a massive tank containing the chemical styrene monomer continued to burn, disaster prevention officials said.

Styrene monomer, a hazardous liquid chemical used in the production of disposable foam plates, cups and other products, can produce poisonous gas when ignited.

Officials are trying to move all people out of the area, including doctors and patients from its main hospital, over fear of the fumes and the possibility of more explosions.

Firefighters could be seen in photos from Thai media climbing through twisted steel wreckage of the complex's warehouses to get their hoses close enough to the flames as they fought to control the blaze.

The body of the only fatality identified so far - a male volunteer rescue worker - was found among the wreckage.

Other photos showed nearby homes with their windows blown out and wreckage in the streets, with black smoke billowing over the area even hours later.

The area around the blast is a mixture of older industrial complexes and newer housing developments that were built after the opening of the airport in 2006.

Jaruwan Chamsopa, who lives about two miles from the factory, said the loud explosion in the middle of the night broke her house's windows, damaged the roof and caused parts of the ceiling to tumble down.

She said the windows of every house on her road were broken as well.

"I was shocked when the explosion took place," she told The Associated Press. "I came out and saw a big fire in the sky."

Authorities ordered the evacuation of an area three miles around the scene, and evacuation centres were set up in a school and a government office for those forced from their homes.

Volunteer rescue worker Anyawut Phoampai told Thailand public TV station TPBS that early efforts to find people possibly still in the factory were hampered by the time it took to bring the fire under control.

"The flames are quite high so it takes quite an effort," he said as the rescue effort was under way.

He said rescuers also fanned out around the area to help people who reported being injured by falling debris.

So far, 11 injuries have been reported, and people were being taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, before that hospital was evacuated itself.

There was no immediate word on what might have caused the fire in Bang Phli district.

Local media reported that the initial explosion shook the terminal building at Suvarnabhumi, setting off alarms at Bangkok's main international airport.

Airport officials said no flights had been cancelled as yet.