Multiple blasts kill 23 in China industrial accident

VIDEO: REUTERS
A charred car is seen on a road after an explosion and fire near a chemical factory in Zhangjiakou, on Nov 28.
A charred car is seen on a road after an explosion and fire near a chemical factory in Zhangjiakou, on Nov 28.PHOTO: TWITTER/ CGTN
Firefighters work next to burnt vehicles following a blast yesterday near a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China. The country's authorities have vowed to improve industrial standards, but environmentalists fear oversight weaknesses st
Firefighters work next to burnt vehicles following a blast yesterday near a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China. The country's authorities have vowed to improve industrial standards, but environmentalists fear oversight weaknesses still persist. Zhangjiakou will co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics, along with the capital Beijing.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • A series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical factory in China yesterday killed 23 people and injured at least 22, the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public.

A video of the blast scene broadcast by state media showed billowing black smoke and flames, while photographs showed rows of burnt-out cars and trucks.

An explosion during a delivery of acetylene set off a chain reaction among trucks parked along a road, leaving 50 vehicles damaged, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing the city's fire fighting department.

The local government announced the casualty toll in a social media posting.

The acetylene was being delivered to the Haipoer New Energy Technology Company in Zhangjiakou city, in the northern province of Hebei, Xinhua reported.

All fires at the blast site had been extinguished, state media said.

Production at the nearby Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry Company was operating normally, Xinhua reported.

A woman who answered the plant's telephone had earlier said that production had been suspended.

Zhangjiakou, about 156km northwest of Beijing, is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, along with the capital.

Some Olympic skiing and snowboarding events will be held on the outskirts of Zhangjiakou during the Games, which Beijing is organising.

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

A blast at a chemical plant in south-west Sichuan province left 19 dead and 12 injured in July. The company had undertaken illegal construction that had not passed safety checks, according to local authorities.

In 2015, giant chemical blasts in a container storage facility killed at least 165 people in the northern port city of Tianjin.

The explosions caused more than US$1 billion (S$1.38 billion) in damage and sparked widespread anger at a perceived lack of transparency over the accident's causes and its environmental impact.

China has vowed to improve industrial standards, but environmentalists fear oversight weaknesses still persist, including an opaque production process for hazardous chemicals.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'Multiple blasts kill 23 in China industrial accident'. Print Edition | Subscribe