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An explosion at a chemical factory in China has killed 78 people

Smoke billows from fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 21, 2019. Picture taken March 21, 2019.
By Echo Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

An explosion at a chemical plant that took place March 21 in China’s eastern Jiangsu province has killed 78 people (link in Chinese) as of Monday (March 25), and injured more than 600, state media reported, the latest in a string of deadly industrial accidents in the country.

The blast occurred in Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blast, but local media reported (link in Chinese) that a manufacturing facility belonging to Tianjiayi Chemical Company that contained benzene, a highly flammable chemical, has been linked to the blast.

China’s earthquake monitoring agency registered an earthquake of magnitude 3 in Jiangsu around 3 pm (link in Chinese), at the time of the blast. A fire at the site was put out early on Friday (March 22), state broadcaster CCTV reported (link in Chinese), when the toll was put at 47. With dozens of people seriously injured, the toll could still rise again.

The explosion shattered windows of residential buildings in Duigougang town, which sits across the chemical park separated by the Guanhe river, local media said (link in Chinese). A local resident told financial news outlet Caixin (link in Chinese) that he saw students from a primary school around a mile from his house who had been injured.

Screengrab/Weibo via the Paper
The blast scene, 16 hours after the explosion occurred.

Founded in 2007, Tianjiayi Chemical Company produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds. In 2018, authorities found that the firm violated work safety regulations and lacked leak-prevention measures in loading areas for benzene and methanol, Caixin said (link in Chinese).

Jiangsu’s department of ecology and environment said yesterday that they found no abnormal concentration (link in Chinese) of benzene and other toxic chemicals after the blast.

The Jiangsu blast is the latest in a string of deadly chemical explosions in China in recent years, the most serious of which was one took place at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin in 2015 that left more than 170 dead or missing. In 2017,  a blast at a biochemical company in another industrial park in Jiangsu killed 10 people and injured one, Caixin noted. Last year, a chemical blast in a factory in southwestern Sichuan province killed 19 people.

Update: The story was updated on March 25 to reflect the latest casualty figures.

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