Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Beijing launches probe of factory blast that killed 47

AFP, YANCHENG, China

Chinese paramilitary police officers wearing protective suits head toward the site of an explosion to measure pollution in Yancheng, China, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday ordered local governments to prevent any more industrial disasters after a chemical plant blast left 47 people dead, injured hundreds and flattened an industrial park in the latest such catastrophe to hit the country.

The explosion late on Thursday in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, was one of China’s worst industrial disasters, with Xi acknowledging that the country has seen a rash of major incidents in the past few years.

Xi — who is on a state visit to Italy — urged “all-out efforts” to rescue those trapped and to identify the cause of the accident “as early as possible,” Xinhua news agency reported.

The Chinese State Council has established a team to investigate the explosion, state media said.

The explosion toppled several buildings in the industrial park and caused a huge fire that raged through the night, while rescuers scrambled to find survivors in the wreckage of the plant owned by a company with a checkered past.

The windows of homes a few kilometers away were shattered.

“We knew we’d be blown up one day,” said one 60-year-old woman surnamed Xiang, who had harbored concerns about safety and pollution for a long time.

More than 600 people have received medical treatment following the blast, the Yancheng City Government said.

Among them, at least 90 were seriously injured.

Hundreds of rescuers have been dispatched to the scene and about 4,000 people have been evacuated from the blast site, local authorities said.

On a shopping street in Yancheng, a bus was converted into a blood donation center, with about 20 to 30 people lined up.

Local authorities, who are investigating the cause of the accident, said that an unspecified number of people were taken into police custody yesterday.

The facility involved in the explosion belonged to Tianjiayi Chemical (天嘉宜化工), a firm with 195 employees established in 2007 that mainly produces raw chemical materials, including anisole, a highly flammable compound.

Tianjiayi Chemical has a history of breaching environmental regulations, Yancheng environment and ecology bureau’s online records showed.

In 2015 and 2017, the firm was fined for breaching rules on solid and water waste management.

In the aftermath of the explosion, several residents told reporters that they were concerned about pollution from the industrial accident.

“We don’t have drinkable water here,” Xiang said. “Why hasn’t the government sent us some water?”

The Jiangsu Ecology and Environment Department yesterday said in a report that several areas near the blast site are contaminated with chemicals, including chloroform and dichloromethane.

The force of the explosion — which was so powerful that it apparently triggered a small earthquake — blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as 4km from the site.

Nearby residents — many of them elderly — have started sweeping up glass, and in some cases, seemed to have abandoned their homes entirely.

On the road where Xiang lives, consisting of basic two-story homes, almost all the windows and some window frames were blown in.

There was no immediate government help and residents were clearing the street themselves, she said.

The blast toppled buildings, trapping workers.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed rescuers pulling a survivor from the wreckage.

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