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China chemical plant blast injures six

07 April 2015

Six people were injured after an explosion at a chemical plant in China's southeastern Fujian province sparked a huge fire, provincial authorities told state media. The plant, located in Zhangzhou city, produces paraxylene (PX), a chemical used in the production of polyester films and fabrics. The blast occurred at an oil storage facility on April 6 after an oil leak.

Stock image
Stock image

Five were injured by broken glass and have been sent to the hospital for treatment, Xinhua news agency reported. People living up to 50km away reported feeling a tremor from the explosion, and windows at a petrol station 1km from the plant were blown out, Xinhua said. Nearby residents were evacuated.

A total of 800 firefighters and 177 fire engines were sent to fight the blaze, Xinhua said, with the fire being brought under control on the morning of April 7.

The plant suffered another explosion in July 2013, although there were no reports of casualties or toxic leaks at the time.

The construction of PX plants in China has sparked protests in several cities in recent years due to the reportedly carcinogenic nature of the chemical. The Zhangzhou plant was originally to be built in Xiamen -- a densely populated city in the southeast of the country. However, it provoked an angry backlash in 2007 due to pollution concerns and prompted the local government to relocate the factory to its current, more remote location.

The plant is operated by Dragon Aromatics, one of the largest independent PX producers in China.

Update: On April 8 local authorities said the PX leak in Zhangzhou led to blasts at three nearby chemical oil tanks at Tenglong Aromatic Hydrocarbon, the total injured was now 12 and 29,000 had been evacuated from the area.

A number of vessels at Gulei Port in Zhangzhou also left their berths including five dangerous cargo carriers, seven cargo ships and two working vessels.

WantChinaTimes of Taiwan reported that the plant was ultimately owned by Chen Yu-hao, one of Taiwan's ten most-wanted fugitives.

Chen, former chair of the Tuntex Group, was indicted in 2003 for allegedly embezzling NT$70 billion (US$2.3 billion). The fugitive tycoon fled to China, where he founded another business empire which includes the paraxylene production complex at Zhangzhou.

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