Japan chemical plant blast may threaten diaper supply

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2012, 11:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

An explosion at a large Japanese chemical plant has sparked fears of a global shortage of disposable diapers, a report said on Sunday.

A tank at chemical producer Nippon Shokubai’s factory in Himeji city, Hyogo prefecture, exploded on Saturday, killing a firefighter and injuring 35 other emergency service workers who responded to a callout, the fire service said.

“We have one fatality. Five in serious conditions, and 16 with minor injuries,” said a Himeji fire spokesman.

The fire department received an emergency call from the factory at 2.05pm (1.05pm Hong Kong time) about a fire.

Thirteen minutes later, firefighters at the scene reported a chemical reaction with a risk of an explosion at the plant, the fire spokesman said.

The exact nature of the explosion, the reason for the original emergency phone call from the factory and other details about the case were not immediately clear, the spokesman added.

The company has a 20-per cent global share of superabsorbent polymer, which is used in the production of diapers, the Sankei Shimbun daily said.

If the operation of the factory is suspended for a long time, it could affect production of disposable diapers, the newspaper said.

The company produces 320,000 tonnes of superabsorbent polymer at the Himeji plant annually, the Sankei said.

Nippon Shokubai had planned to boost its production to meet the growing demand for disposable diapers in China, the paper said.