Tue, Aug 18, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Toyota shutters factory in Tianjin; 50 workers hurt

AFP, TOKYO

Toyota yesterday said more than 50 employees were injured after two explosions last week in the Chinese city of Tianjin, where the automaker’s factory lines are to remain closed until at least tomorrow night.

Production at Toyota’s Tianjin subsidiary — including a factory line 70km away that depends on parts from the main operation — was halted due to evacuations from the city, Toyota said.

When the accident happened, Toyota’s operations had been shut for a week’s summer holiday, with production due to restart on Sunday last week, so there was no immediate impact on production from the disaster. The main Tianjin factory, which produces several models including the Corolla and Vios sedan, has about 12,000 employees and manufactured 440,000 vehicles last year.

The deadly blast also damaged a pair of Toyota dealerships that required them to temporarily close, while some other Japanese firms including Panasonic and automaker Mazda reported minor damage at their operations in Tianjin.

“We have now heard that over 50 employees who live in the surrounding area have been injured, but we are still verifying the details regarding the number of employees injured and the extent of the injuries,” a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo said.

“We can confirm that no deaths have been reported,” the spokesman said.

As for the “impact on imports and exports to and from Tianjin, we are still assessing the situation,” he said.

The spokesman said the 50 injured were either Toyota employees or Toyota-related personnel. Consumer electronics brand Panasonic said that there was minor damage to its plant in the industrial city and that it was halting operations on Sunday for safety checks.

“We’ve had some small damage at the plant, such as broken windows,” a company spokeswoman said.

“Operations were halted today to do safety checks. We’ve not made a final decision on whether they will restart today,” she said.

Massive explosions at a chemical storage facility killed more than 100 people and injured over 700, with firefighters still battling the giant blaze that followed.

The accident has also raised fears about toxic chemicals poisoning the air, particularly sodium cyanide.

The industrial zone of Tianjin, one of China’s biggest cities with a population of 15 million people, hosts car plants, aircraft assembly lines, oil refineries and other service and production facilities.

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