Nineteen killed in Chinese chemical plant blast

Authorities investigating cause of explosion that also left 12 people injured

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 10:47am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 11:39pm

Nineteen people have been killed in an explosion at a chemical plant in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, local authorities said.

The explosion happened at 6.30pm on Thursday in an industrial zone in Jiangan county, according to a statement issued by the Sichuan Industry Safety Supervision Administration.

Twelve people were injured in the accident, the cause of which is under investigation, the statement said.

None of those injured were in a critical condition, according to the local government.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed heavy smoke rising from the factory, which was owned by the Hengda Science and Technology Company.

Fire crews sent to the scene put out the fire later on Thursday and local firefighters told The Beijing News that the blast had been caused by exploding methanol but did not provide further details.

Hengda was set up three years ago and is listed as a chemical product manufacturer and distributor on a Chinese business registration database, Southern Metropolis News reported

Last year the provincial Environmental Protection Department approved its application to lease more land in the industrial zone to build more facilities for producing chemical intermediates, the report said.

Deaths from workplace accidents in China fall 12pc in 2017 to 38,000

One witness who was walking outside about 300 metres away from the factory at the time of the accident told The Beijing News he heard seven loud blasts in about 10 minutes.

“The actual explosion was deafening – I felt the impact through my whole body,” he was quoted as saying. “I thought my eardrums were going to burst.”

He said the accident happened as the day workers were handing over to their colleagues on the night shift.

A truck driver who was at a nearby factory also told the newspaper he had heard a loud blast followed by a series of explosions that sounded like fireworks. He said the lid from a boiler was catapulted into the air and came crashing down on the plant near where he was.

“I was behind the wheel and the truck was shaking – I could feel the ground shaking too,” he was quoted as saying. “We got out of the truck and ran outside. People were shouting, ‘There’s been an explosion’.”

There have been at least 23 explosions in factories across the country this year alone, killing 49 workers, according to workers’ rights group China Labour Bulletin.

More than 150 workers were killed last year in 33 factory blasts, according to the Hong Kong-based NGO.

China’s most serious work safety incident happened four years ago, when an explosion at a metalwork manufacturer in Kunshan, Jiangsu province claimed 97 lives. The blast is thought to have been triggered by a flame in an aluminium dust-filled workshop used to polish car wheel hubs. The local work safety authority said the factory had ignored several warnings about the potential for an explosion.