Probe 'blames Sinopec, city' for deadly pipeline blast in China

BEIJING (AFP) - An official inquiry blames China's state-owned oil giant Sinopec and the local authorities in the city of Qingdao for a November pipeline explosion that killed 62 people, state media reported on Thursday.

The State Administration of Work Safety found that Sinopec and the Qingdao city government "are responsible for not identifying and correcting potential safety hazards" related to the blast, state broadcaster China Central Television reported, citing a summary of an investigation.

The probe found that the pipeline itself was improperly designed and the emergency response in the wake of the explosion - which also injured 136 - was poorly handled, it said.

"The report has been handed over to the State Council and will be released to the public later," the CCTV summary said. The State Council is China's Cabinet.

Official news agency Xinhua called the Nov 22 explosion China's deadliest since at least 2005.

Pictures show it ripped roads apart, turned cars over and sent thick black smoke billowing over the city.

The blast occurred seven hours after an oil leak was first spotted, and questions remain as to why local residents were not ordered to evacuate in the intervening period.

Seven Sinopec employees and two Qingdao city workers have been detained in connection with the explosion.

Sinopec issued an apology for the incident but denied that it was slow to respond, maintaining that it contacted local police and firefighters as soon as the leak was found.

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