Sunday 21 April 2019

Huge blast at chemicals factory kills 62 in China

China’s President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters
China’s President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

David Stanway

An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed 62 people, state media said late last night, with 34 people critically injured and 28 missing, the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public.

The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province, and the fire was finally brought under control at 3am (7pm GMT) yesterday, state television said.

Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals with 640 people being treated for injuries.

The fire at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighbouring factories. Children at a kindergarten in the vicinity were also injured in the blast, media reported.

The cause of the explosion was under investigation, but the company - which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some of which are highly flammable - has been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the 'China Daily' said.

Police, some wearing face masks, sealed off roads to the plant. The power of the blast smashed windows in the village of Wangshang 2km away, and shocked villagers likened it to an earthquake.

"There have been little accidents before but nothing like this," one resident, who gave his family name as Wang, told Reuters.

"There was one loud bang followed by a long rumble. All the windows were smashed. I went to have a look. Near the site there was blood everywhere. People were crushed," he said.

The village, overlooking a murky mildewed pond, has not been evacuated despite its proximity to the blast site.

President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, ordered all-out efforts to care for the injured and to "earnestly maintain social stability", state television said.

Authorities must step up action to prevent such incidents from happening and find out the cause of the blast as quickly as possible, Mr Xi added.

"There have recently been a series of major accidents, and all places and relevant departments must fully learn the lessons from these," the report cited Mr Xi as saying.

The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said in a statement that the environmental monitoring station in the area had found no abnormal concentrations of toluene, xylene or benzene.

Concentrations of acetone and chloroform outside the perimeter of the explosion zone were also within normal limits, it added.

Jiangsu will launch inspections on chemical producers and warehouses, according to an emergency notice published by official media yesterday.

Irish Independent

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