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Two dead, two missing in China factory blast

27 November 2017

An explosion in a port city south of Shanghai on November 26 killed at least two people and injured 19 others, knocked down buildings and left streets littered with damaged cars and debris, Chinese news sources said. The official Xinhua news agency said the blast happened at a riverfront site in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, one of China's busiest ports.

Firefighters traced the blast to a hole in the ground where a toilet had been but the cause still was under investigation, state television said on its website. It gave no indication whether the explosion site was inside a building.

The force of the explosion destroyed the roofs of two buildings at the site of the blast, which local sources said were already structurally unsound and slated for demolition. It also shattered windows and punched holes in the walls of some residential and commercial properties as far as a kilometre away.

According to AFP, a statement from local government later confirmed that the blast’s epicentre was a septic tank in an empty field. Methane and hydrogen sulphide — both highly flammable gases — can build up in septic tanks.

The statement said in addition to the two fatalities, two people were missing after the explosion. Four people were severely injured and 15 others had minor wounds.

China suffers frequent deadly fires and industrial accidents, often blamed on negligence. In 2015, an explosion traced to improperly stored chemicals killed at least 173 people in Tianjin, a port city east of Beijing.

A government inquiry into the Tianjin accident released in February 2016 recommended 123 people be punished. The official who was mayor at the time of the accident was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption.

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