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Major explosion at chemical plant kills 47, injures 600 in eastern China

The explosion was so powerful it knocked down factory buildings and shattered the windows of surrounding homes.

Rescuers walk near the site of the factory explosion in Yancheng.
Rescuers walk near the site of the factory explosion in Yancheng.
Image: AP/PA Images

THE DEATH TOLL from an explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China has risen to 47, authorities have confirmed.

The latest industrial incident to rock China in recent years occurred at around 2.50pm (6.50am Irish time yesterday) at a facility run by Tianjiayi Chemical in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, city officials said on Twitter-like Weibo.

More than 600 people are currently receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the blast.

Around the time of the explosion, China’s earthquake administration reported a 2.2-magnitude tremor in Lianyungang, a city near the Yancheng blast.

The windows of houses and a school in the surrounding area were shattered by the force of the explosion, and residents were evacuated amid concerns about toxic fumes, according to authorities and images published by local media.

(SPOT NEWS)CHINA-YANCHENG-FACTORY EXPLOSION (CN) Aerial photo of the blaze Source: Ji Chunpeng/Xinhua/PA Images

A large blaze continued to light up the sky last night, according to AFP reporters who attempted to access the industrial area.

Dozens of fire engines and ambulances — some drafted in from other cities — raced to and from the scene.

Police sealed off all roads and dirt tracks to the site.

An aerial view of the blast area showed a large swathe of destruction in the industrial park, where multiple fires had initially raged.

“At present, on-site rescue is still going on… The cause of the accident is under investigation,” officials said.

Rescuers interviewed by state broadcaster CCTV repeatedly described the ground situation as “complex”, adding that the focus was on trying to pull people from the site. 

XINHUA PHOTOS OF THE DAY Aerial photo taken on 22 March 2019 shows firefighters working at the site Source: Ji Chunpeng/Xinhua/PA Images

Emergency services continued to work throughout the night for the rescue efforts, with the initial death toll of 6 now at 47. 

History of industrial disasters

Industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In November, a gas leak caused an explosion at a PVC production plant in a northern Chinese city that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, killing 24 people and injuring 21 others.

A report published by local authorities in February revealed that the Chinese chemical firm responsible for the accident had concealed information and misled investigators. 

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

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

© AFP 2019 

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