China to close industrial park where deadly blast killed 78

The city government said Friday, April 5, 2019 that local departments have met to discuss how to eliminate chemical plants with low safety standards and severe pollution issues. (File/AP)
Updated 06 April 2019
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China to close industrial park where deadly blast killed 78

  • The blast in Yancheng city was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country in recent years
  • Jiangsu province will also begin closing chemical plants, with the number of producers to be cut roughly in half by 2020

BEIJING: The Chinese chemical industry park where an explosion last month killed 78 people and left hundreds injured will be closed, authorities have said.
The blast in Yancheng city, eastern Jiangsu province, was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country in recent years, razing buildings nearby and blowing out the windows of surrounding homes. Authorities evacuated thousands of residents.
The decision to close the Xiangshui Chemical Industry Park was made Thursday by the local government, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Friday.
Jiangsu province will also begin closing chemical plants, with the number of producers to be cut roughly in half by 2020, news site The Paper reported.
Local authorities said Tuesday 187 people hurt in the blast remained in hospital with two in critical condition.
Three employees from the firm Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical, whose facility was involved in the blast, have been detained by police.
They bore “significant responsibility” for the accident, according to a statement on the Yancheng government’s official Twitter-like Weibo account.
The company, with 195 employees, was established in 2007 and mainly produced raw chemical materials including anisole, a highly flammable compound.
It had a history of violating environmental regulations, according to online records from Yancheng city’s environment and ecology bureau.
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.


No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

Updated 17 July 2019
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No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

  • Many lawmakers, business community fear dire economic outcome
  • A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit

LONDON: The battle to become Britain's next prime minister enters the home straight on Wednesday with both candidates hardening their positions on Brexit, putting the future government on a collision course with Brussels.
Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are now both referring to Britain's departure with no overall deal in place as a realistic prospect.
The business community and many lawmakers fear dire economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit, which would lead to immediate trade tariffs for some sectors including the automotive industry.
Johnson and Hunt are taking part in a final question-and-answer session later on Wednesday before the result of the vote by Conservative Party members is announced next Tuesday.
The new party leader will be confirmed as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on the following day.
Britain has twice delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union after 46 years of membership as May tried and failed to get her deal with Brussels through parliament.
The two candidates vying to replace her have vowed to scrap a "backstop" provision in the agreement that Brussels insisted upon to keep the Irish border open.
Their latest attacks on the measure during a debate on Monday prompted a plunge in the value of the British pound.
The currency fell again Wednesday to its lowest level against the US dollar in over two years.
"The tougher stance from both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in terms of their rhetoric on Brexit is clearly weighing on the pound," said market analyst Neil Wilson.
"Make no mistake, this decline in the pound is down to traders pricing in a higher chance of a no-deal exit."
The backstop has proved a key stumbling block in the Brexit process.
The measure would keep open the post-Brexit border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland whatever the outcome of negotiations over the future relationship between London and Brussels.
Johnson announced early in his campaign that he would not sign up to it and would pursue a no-deal Brexit if required, leading his opponent to follow suit.
However, European leaders have been adamant that the backstop must remain a part of any divorce deal, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who will become European Commission president in November, said the draft withdrawal agreement provided "certainty".
She also broached a possible further delay to Britain's departure, saying: "I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."
Johnson has pledged that under his leadership, Britain will leave "do or die" on the current deadline of October 31.
A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but attempts to pass legislation blocking the scenario have failed.
Reports this week suggested Johnson is considering plans to end the current session of parliament in early October, leaving MPs powerless.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Wednesday it was "terrifying" that some Brexit supporters thought that no deal would leave Britain better off.
And in a speech in London, May said the "best route" for Britain was to leave with a deal.
Delivering her last major address, she railed against the trend towards "absolutism" in Britain and abroad, and urged her successor to compromise.
"Whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long term, so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together. That has to mean some kind of compromise," she said.