Death toll climbs to 62 in Chinese chemical plant blast

VIDEO: REUTERS
Smoke billows from a fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019.
Smoke billows from a fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS
Paramilitary police officers transfer an injured man after an explosion in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 21, 2019.
Paramilitary police officers transfer an injured man after an explosion in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 21, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
Rescue workers are seen near a factory following an explosion at a chemical industrial park in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019.
Rescue workers are seen near a factory following an explosion at a chemical industrial park in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS
The aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.
The aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
An aerial view of the aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.
An aerial view of the aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.PHOTO: AFP
The aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.
The aftermath of the explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on March 22, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed 62 people and left 94 others seriously injured, state media said late on Friday (March 22), 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 on Friday, state television said. 28 people remain missing.

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

A man who gave his surname as Wang said his 66-year-old mother died after her house located half a kilometre away from the plant collapsed on her on the impact of the explosion, Apple Daily reported.

It was "like a bomb, an atomic bomb", Mr Wang described.


Smoke billows from a fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Lu Peiyu, who lives about 2km away from the site, said the blast cracked the walls of his house, shattered the windows, and even "the door was gone". He described an acrid smell shortly after the plant blew up.

The impact of the blast could be felt as far as 30km with shaking glass doors reported.

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.

The 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 him as saying.

The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said in a late Thursday 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 on Friday.

 
 

The notice, published on the news website of Jiangsu province's Communist Party, said the government would shut down any chemical firms found not complying with regulations on dangerous chemicals.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China following industrial accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.

In 2015, 165 people were killed in a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin.

The explosions at Tianjin, one of the world's busiest ports and not far from the capital, Beijing, were big enough to be seen by satellites and register on earthquake sensors.

Despite repeated pledges by the government to tighten safety, chemical plants in particular have been plagued by disasters.

In November, a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical manufacturer killed 23 people.

Additional reporting by The Straits Times