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China's safety under scrutiny

21 July 2009

The world received a grim reminder last week that China's record on plant safety in the chemical industries is far below expectations of the global community. Chemical plant explosions have claimed the lives of seven operators and injured more than 100 people living near the factories. The deaths were the result of an explosion and subsequent fire reported at the Luo Dye Company's chemical plant in the Guxian Township of Yanshi City, central China's Henan Province.

China's safety under scrutiny
China's safety under scrutiny

A warehouse fire had caused the explosion of about 10 tonnes of chlorobenzene, a flammable intermediate chemical stored in a tank ready to be used in dyestuffs production.

The blast occurred at 2 am on July 15 and early reports suggested that five workers on the night shift had died and two were missing. Following the blast, the factory zone was engulfed in flames and 108 residents were injured, mostly by flying glass. Several hundred others who lived within a radius of 1,000 meters were evacuated.

Once the fire had been extinguished the next day, the bodies of the two missing persons were discovered. Of the 17 workers on the night shift, seven died, nine were injured and taken to hospital and one escaped unscathed. The factory, which employees 180 people, produces chemicals for the dyeing industry. Had the explosion occurred during daytime, the loss of life would have been considerably greater.

Engineers for the local environmental protection department sealed the discharge pipe at the chemical plant and had been closely monitoring the quality of the air around the area. Tests have since showed that the explosion caused no pollution to local rivers and groundwater.

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