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NEWS//Chemical plant explosion

NEWS//Chemical plant explosion

A chemical plant exploded in eastern China on Thursday, March 21. It killed over 60 people and injured hundreds, at least 90 of them seriously. The plant mainly produces pesticides.

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Size of blast

The blast produced a magnitude 2.2 seismic shock. Windows in buildings four miles away were blown out by the blast. Cars in the area were crushed. Sixteen neighboring factories were left with varying degrees of damage.

As a precaution against chemical leaks and additional explosions, schools were closed. Nearly 1,000 residents were moved to safety. Drains and waterways running through and from the plant complex have been blocked to prevent toxic chemicals from running into the nearby Yellow Sea.

Air quality tests taken the next day found levels of nitrogen oxides were almost twice the national air safety level for industrial zones. At that level, nitrogen oxide causes causing respiratory infection.

Monitoring failures

The State Administration of Work Safety listed 13 safety problems at the plant after an inspection last year, including a lack of safety training among management.

Concerns about chemical plants in the area run deep. In 2011, rumors that gas leaking from a plant in Xiangshui County could explode circulated among residents, causing thousands to flee. Four people were killed in a traffic accident during the late-night panic.

Jiangsu is by far the Chinese province with the greatest production of agricultural chemicals. Over the past year, it has also been at the center of a controversy over how China should regulate the production of chemicals.

The cause of the blast has not been confirmed, but one worker said a tanker truck carrying natural gas had caught fire, setting off an explosion in a benzene storage area.

Police have taken the executives of the chemical plant into custody.

Other explosions at chemical plants in China:

  • 2007: A neighboring chemical plant exploded killing seven people.

  • 2015: Tianjin. 173 people were killed

  • November, 2018:  Zhangjiakou. At least 22 people were killed

Sources: New York Times, AP, South China Morning Press, Boston Globe