A truck carrying combustible chemicals exploded yesterday at the entrance of a chemical factory in a northern Chinese city that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving 23 people dead and 22 others injured, state media and authorities said.
The blast ignited other vehicles, leaving charred and smoking remains of trucks and cars scattered on a road as firefighters worked at the scene, according to images posted online by state media.
A witness said that he heard a “very loud bang” after midnight and saw a field and trucks engulfed in flames outside the factory in Zhangjiakou, a city about 200km northwest of Beijing.
The side of a building was covered in soot in front of a row of burned out trucks across the road, footage broadcast by China Central Television showed following the latest deadly incident to hit a factory in China.
The blast damaged 38 trucks and 12 cars, the local propaganda department said on its Sina Weibo account.
The injured were taken to hospitals for treatment following the blast at 12:41am, it said.
The death toll rose from 22 to 23 later in the day after another body was found, the city government said.
The factory’s and exterior archway were blackened. Across from the blast, reporters saw a field of blackened grass and trees, with smoke billowing from the embers.
Heavy machinery was brought in to remove debris.
A truck carrying acetylene blew up when entering the plant, igniting nearby vehicles, according to Xinhua news agency, which cited a preliminary investigation.
Rescue efforts and the investigation were still underway, Xinhua reported.
The propaganda department said that the blast occurred near Hebei Shenghua Chemical Co, but Xinhua later reported that it happened at the entrance of Haipo’er New Energy Technology Co.
“It was after midnight when I put down my phone to go to bed when I heard a very loud bang, followed by a few more,” said a man named Zhang who works in another chemical factory about 200m from the blast site.
“There was a shaking and two pieces of the ceiling fell. I thought it was an earthquake so I hid under a bed for a while,” he said.
“When I looked out of the window I saw a large fireball sweep across the area,” said Zhang, whose car was singed. “Even the grass outside our factory was on fire, so we quickly put it out.”
He awoke others in his dormitory and they ran to safety.
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