BEIJING/SHANGHAI • An explosion at a chemical plant in south-western China has killed 19 people and injured 12, the authorities said yesterday, the latest deadly industrial incident in the world's largest producer of chemicals.
It comes amid a drive to strengthen industrial safety, with China ramping up checks over the last year, in the wake of some high-profile incidents at coal mines and chemical plants.
The cause of Thursday evening's blast at Yibin Hengda Technology in an industrial park several hours south-east of Chengdu, the capital of the south-western province of Sichuan, is not yet known, said the local government in Jiang'an county.
The company involved makes chemicals for the food and pharmaceutical industries.
"I heard seven explosions in 10 minutes," an eyewitness told domestic news agency Beijing News. "It took a couple dozen firefighting trucks to put out the fire."
The injured are in stable condition and an investigation has begun, state news agency Xinhua said.
Photographs on Chinese social media showed a huge fire and plumes of smoke rising from the facility. The fire, which broke out Thursday evening, was put out by 11pm local time, the government said in its statement.
"I heard a big explosion, it was really loud and I felt the ground shaking," Mr Liu Ping, a manager from the industrial park, told China Newsweek. He was in his office at the time of the explosion.
"My first response was that something was wrong and I looked out the window and saw thick smoke rising from the facility," he added
A trio of three-storey buildings were reduced to their steel frames by the explosion, the Sichuan Daily newspaper said, citing eyewitness accounts. Footage on its website yesterday showed the skeleton of the burnt-out buildings.
Windows of nearby buildings were shattered by the explosion at the factory, which is surrounded by a sand and gravel plant, it added.
China's breakneck pace of economic growth during the last decade has resulted in a spate of industrial accidents.
In 2015, an explosion in a chemical warehouse in the northern port city of Tianjin killed 165 people. Last year, a blast at a petrochemical plant in eastern Shandong province killed eight people and injured nine.