7 dead, 5 injured in container blast in east China's Jiangsu province

BEIJING (AFP) - An explosion at an electronics component manufacturer in east China on Sunday (March 31) killed seven and injured five others, local authorities said.

The blast happened when a container for storing scrap metal burst into flames outside a factory in an export processing zone in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, the local government said on its official WeChat social media account.

“The cause of the accident outside Kunshan Waffer Technology is still under investigation,” the statement said.

The fire from the storage unit spread to a nearby factory workshop, it added, while one of the five people injured was in a critical condition.

The incident came barely a week after one of China's worst recent industrial accidents, in which an explosion at a chemical plant killed 78 people and injured hundreds.

The powerful explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng toppled several buildings in the industrial park, blew out windows of nearby homes and even dented metal garage doors. It prompted the State Council, China's Cabinet, to order a nationwide inspection of chemical firms.

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In November, a gas leak at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, killed 24 people and injured 21 others. Leaked chloroethylene came in contact with a fire source, causing the explosion, the authorities said in a February report that revealed the Chinese chemical firm responsible for the accident had concealed information and misled investigators.

In December, three students were killed in a blast at a Beijing university laboratory during a research experiment on wastewater treatment.

Last July, a blast at a chemical plant in south-west Sichuan province left 19 dead and 12 injured. It was later revealed the company had undertaken illegal construction which did not pass safety checks.

In 2015, China saw one of its worst industrial accidents when giant chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people. The explosions caused more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) in damage and sparked widespread anger at a perceived lack of transparency over the accident's causes and its environmental impact.