China factory blast death toll jumps to 64, man rescued after 40 hours

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An aerial view shows damaged buildings after an explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng in China's eastern Jiangsu province early on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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Rescue workers evacuate an injured man from a factory explosion in a chemical industrial park in Xiangshui County of Yancheng in eastern China's Jiangsu province on March 21, 2019. (Chinatopix Via AP)
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Firefighters work on extinguishing the fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China on March 21, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Fires burn at the site of a factory explosion in a chemical industrial park in Xiangshui County of Yancheng in eastern China's Jiangsu province on March 21, 2019. (Ji Chunpeng/Xinhua via AP)
Updated 23 March 2019
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China factory blast death toll jumps to 64, man rescued after 40 hours

  • The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province
  • The company produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some of which are highly flammable

BEIJING: The death toll in a chemical plant explosion in China rose to 64 Saturday but rescuers found a survivor among more than two dozen still missing in the debris of one of the country’s worst industrial accidents in recent years.

Thursday’s explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng injured hundreds and flattened an industrial park.

The local fire brigade pulled a man in his 40s from the rubble of the destroyed chemical plant around dawn on Saturday, according to a statement on the city government’s official Weibo account.

He was taken to hospital for treatment, the statement said, without giving further detail of his status or injuries.

Rescuers are looking for 28 people who are still missing, Yancheng mayor Cao Lubao said in the statement.

“The identities of the dead and the missing are being confirmed through interviews with family members, home visits and DNA tests,” Cao said.

More than 600 people have received medical treatment following the blast, according to the city government.

Among them, 21 are critically injured and 73 are seriously injured, the statement said.

The explosion toppled several buildings in the industrial park and caused a huge fire that raged through the night, while rescuers scrambled to find survivors in the plant’s wreckage.

Hundreds of rescuers were dispatched to the scene, local authorities said, and some 4,000 people have been evacuated from the blast site.

The force of the explosion — which was so powerful that it apparently triggered a small earthquake — blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as four kilometers from the site.

Nearby residents — many of them elderly — were seen sweeping up glass, and in some cases appeared to have abandoned their homes entirely.

The city government said some 89 houses were damaged beyond repair and families were resettled after demolishing those structures.

The government said it was also repairing blown-in doors and windows in 10 school buildings near the site so that all schools in the area can resume classes Monday.

Local authorities investigating the cause of the accident said an unspecified number of people were taken into police custody on Friday.

The facility involved in the explosion belonged to Tianjiayi Chemical, a firm with 195 employees established in 2007 that mainly produces raw chemical materials including anisole, a highly flammable compound.

Tianjiayi Chemical has a history of violating environmental regulations, according to online records from Yancheng city’s environment and ecology bureau.

In 2015 and 2017, the firm was fined for violating rules on solid and water waste management.

Several residents told AFP they were concerned about pollution from the industrial accident.

“We don’t have drinkable water here,” one 60-year-old woman surnamed Xiang said. “Why hasn’t the government sent us some water?“

According to a report released Friday by Jiangsu province’s ecology and environment department, several rivers near the blast site are contaminated with chemicals, including chloroform and dichloromethane.

But the city government said Saturday that “continuous environmental monitoring data show that pollution indicators are within the normal range, and the drinking water... is not affected.”

Authorities said they had also dammed a tributary to the nearby Xinfeng River to prevent any “outflow of sewage from the chemical industrial park.”

An aerial view of the blast area showed a large swathe of destruction in the industrial park, where multiple fires had raged.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze Friday after battling raging flames through the night. Three chemical tanks and five other areas had been on fire.

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In November, a gas leak at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, killed 24 people and injured 21 others.

In 2015, China saw one of its worst industrial accidents when giant chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.


US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

Updated 29 min 23 sec ago
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US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived on Tuesday for talks with Indian leaders in New Delhi, where he is expected to tackle a host of delicate issues from trade to India’s longstanding defense and energy ties to Russia and Iran.
Relations between the United States and India have improved dramatically since the Cold War but they have still fallen short of their promise and now have run into serious problems over tariffs, flows of data and tighter Indian rules on online commerce in one of the world’s fastest growing large markets.
Pompeo landed in New Delhi late on Tuesday night after an unannounced trip to Kabul.
He will kick off his visit to India by calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was re-elected for a second term last month with a powerful mandate that analysts say gives him the chance to take bold reforms to propel Asia’s third largest economy toward faster growth.
Just ahead of his visit, New Delhi imposed tariffs on some US goods after President Donald Trump’s administration threw India out of a group of countries that were allowed duty free access for some of their products into the large US market.
While trade issues are led by the US Trade Representative’s office and the commerce departments, Pompeo is expected to raise some of the concerns US companies have about new rules on local storage of data as well as restrictions on foreign companies’ online operations in India.
“We expect trade and ecommerce to figure in the meetings with the PM and the foreign minister, we are ready to engage them on data issues,” said an Indian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with service rules.

Pressure
Pompeo’s visit is expected to lay the ground for talks between Trump and Modi later in the week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka.
India hopes that this week’s high-level meetings will help re-start talks over a trade package the two had been negotiating for months, the official said.
In recent weeks, the United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
India says the missiles are necessary to bolster defenses against China, but Washington has said it would prefer India to consider other options including US defense firms for alternative weapons systems.
A second Indian official said India believed it had a case for a waiver from US sanctions should it go ahead with the missile system purchase from Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey, a NATO ally, which is also buying the S-400 system.
Under US pressure India has stopped buying oil from Iran, one of its top suppliers, and the two Indian officials said the oil-dependent economy had taken a hit as a result.
Now, with tensions rising between the United States and Iran, New Delhi is further worried about the security of its energy supplies.