A chemical leak at a pharmaceutical factory in Anhui province on Thursday made 62 people ill, Xinhua reported yesterday, with eight in critical condition.
The victims, all workers at Wanbei Pharmaceutical's plant in Suzhou, fell ill after inhaling fumes from highly toxic solid phosgene. It is used in the production of pesticides and herbicides, as well as antibiotics and pain-killers, and was used as poison gas, notably in the first world war.
The leak started from a laboratory at about 4.30pm on Thursday and spread to neighbouring workshops.
Thirty-seven of the victims were still being treated in hospital yesterday, with eight in critical condition and 29 in stable condition, the report said. Anhui-governor Wang Sanyun has ordered an investigation and arranged for medical specialists to treat the victims.
The provincial government sent a team of 10 medical experts to Suzhou yesterday who had individual consultations with the victims. Anhui's health bureau prepared 25 ventilators and 50 heart monitors.
Health, work safety and environmental protection authorities had begun their probe of the leak by last night, with the laboratory where the leak started declared safe.
Workplace accidents kill thousands of people on the mainland every year, in part because of lax enforcement of safety rules and poor worker training.