China explosion: Death toll rises to 47 after chemical factory blast

Adam Forrest
1 / 3
China explosion: Death toll rises to 47 after chemical factory blast

An explosion at a chemical plant in China has killed 47 people and injured more than 600 others, Chinese state media said on Friday.

The blast occurred shortly before 3pm local time on Thursday at Tianjiayi Chemical Company factory in Yancheng in Jiangsu province.

A fire which broke out at the facility, which then spread to neighbouring factories, was brought under control at 3am on Friday, state television reported.

Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals with 640 people being treated for injuries, including 32 who were were critically injured. Children at a nursery near the factory were among those injured in the explosion.

Nearly 1,000 residents were moved to safety as a precaution against additional explosions, the Yancheng city government announced.

According to the South China Morning Post, the China Earthquake Administration reported a magnitude-2.2 earthquake in Jiangsu, likely trigged by the blast.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but the company – which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some of which are highly flammable – has been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, according to the China Daily.

President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, said the authorities must step up action to prevent such incidents from happening and find out the cause of the blast as quickly as possible, state television reported.

“There have recently been a series of major accidents, and all places and relevant departments must fully learn the lessons from these,” Mr Xi said.

Paramilitary police officers transfer injured man after explosion (AFP/Getty Images)

The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said a monitoring station in the area had found no abnormal concentrations of toluene, xylene or benzene.

Concentrations of acetone and chloroform outside the perimeter of the explosion zone were also within normal limits, it added.

The Jiangsu agency will launch inspections on chemical producers and warehouses, according to an emergency notice published by official media on Friday.

The notice, published on the news website of Jiangsu province’s Communist Party, said the government would shut down any chemical firms found not complying with regulations on dangerous chemicals.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China over industrial accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires.

In 2015, 165 people were killed in a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin.

The explosions at Tianjin, one of the world’s busiest ports and not far from the capital Beijing, were big enough to be seen by satellites and register on earthquake sensors.

Despite repeated pledges by the government to tighten safety, chemical plants in particular have been plagued by disasters.

In November, a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical manufacturer killed 23 people.

Additional reporting by agencies