20,000 evacuated as oil blast rocks city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2001, 12:00am

A huge explosion at an oil pier rocked Maoming in Guangdong yesterday, forcing the temporary evacuation of more than 20,000 residents, the China News Service reported.

At least six people were injured in the blast at about 2pm when 12 pipelines at the Beishan Oil Pier exploded. Windows of all buildings on the pier were shattered and flames up to 50 metres high erupted from the twisted pipelines.

A two-storey pumping room next to the pipelines was blown apart and a column of black smoke could be seen miles away.

More than 500 firefighters and 50 fire engines from Maoming and nearby Zhanjiang were called to put out the fire and rescue the injured. The firemen sprayed chemical foam to stop the blaze spreading to nearby oil tanks.

Initial reports said at least six men were injured and taken to hospital. Their condition was not known last night.

The fire took four hours to control and police were investigating the cause of the accident.

Footage broadcast last night by Guangdong television showed that the oil tanks appeared safe after the incident and the pier was blanketed by a thick layer of white chemical foam.

The pier belongs to the Maoming Petrochemical Company, based at Jueshan in Dianbei county. It has 12 oil tanks and each is connected to the pier with its own pipeline.

Reports said the factory was shut down and all schools in the vicinity closed.

The accident came as government leaders stressed the importance of industrial safety.