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Blast at Japanese chemical plant kills five

09 January 2014

On January 8 an explosion killed and injured a number of workers at the Mitsubishi Materials plant in Yokkaichi city, Mie prefecture, in central Japan. "Five people are dead. 12 people have been injured, of whom nine sustained only minor injuries," a spokeswoman at Mie prefectural police said.

Maintenance crews were cleaning out a heat exchanger used in the production of silicon products when the blast happened. Some 170 staff were reportedly working in the plant at the time of the incident. Emergency officials said there had been no fire and the situation was quickly contained.

The plant manufactures polymers and uses a number of highly volatile chemicals, including hydrogen and chlorine, to make parts for solar panels and automobiles. Mitsubishi Materials - a division of the huge Mitsubishi Corporation - makes a range of automotive, electronics, construction and engineering products.

A police spokeswoman said detailed inspections to determine the cause of the accident had not yet begun because of the danger of secondary explosions.

The plant had previously attracted the attention of safety inspectors. Dow Jones Newswires said the Yokkaichi factory was ordered by local officials to shut down for several months in 2010 after an on-site inspection discovered it was generating high-pressure gas without necessary permits.

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