At least 20 dead after tanker explodes in collision

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am


At least 20 people were killed and 27 injured when a huge fire in Guangzhou, triggered by collision between a tanker and a truck, engulfed a timber mill and its staff dormitory yesterday morning.

China News Service said the tanker, carrying 40 tonnes of mineral solvent, exploded after it collided with the truck on a bridge on the Nangang section of the Guangzhou-Yanjiang Expressway at 4.30am.

The fire then spread to cover an area of more than 2,000 square metres, including a timber factory and its dormitory under the bridge, a container yard and nearby buildings, as well as setting passing vehicles alight.

'Many victims who died in the accident were workers from the timber factory who were asleep and didn't have time to flee for their lives,' China News Service said. Fourteen others were injured, one of them critically, it reported.

Guangzhou authorities later updated the number of injured to 27. The authorities put the death toll at 20 after rescue efforts finished at noon, although a provincial public security bureau official, citing rescue workers, told the South China Morning Post that more than 20 people had been killed in the dormitory.

Guangzhou Red Cross Hospital said at least six people injured in the fire had been treated at the hospital, while a reporter from New Express newspaper said two women rescued from the scene need windpipe surgery to help them to breathe.

An injured father who rescued his three-year-old son, wife, parents-in-law, younger brother and sister-in-law from the fire was quoted by China News Agency as saying that his family members were all in critical condition. He said many timber mills were located next to the bridge.

Some workers who escaped from the fire suggested there could be more victims.

The 35-year-old truck driver, from Hunan , and the 38-year-old tanker driver, from Maoming in Guangdong, were detained by police at the scene.

More than 230 firefighters and 37 fire engines were deployed to extinguish the blaze. The bridge on the expressway has been sealed off and will be examined by engineers to see whether it has been weakened by the explosion.

Residents living nearby told the Guangzhou Daily that they had heard a huge explosion and the blast shattered their windows. The newspaper said six vans and three motorcycles under the bridge were destroyed in the fire.

Additional reporting by Mimi Lau