Six more detained over China blast that killed 78

The explosion was one of the worst industrial accidents in China recently. (AFP/File)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Six more detained over China blast that killed 78

  • China shut down the plant after the explosion
  • The official statement said they will also take measures against the companies running the plant

BEIJING: Police have detained six more suspects linked to a chemical plant blast in eastern China last month which killed 78 and left hundreds injured, local authorities said.
The explosion in Jiangsu province’s Yancheng city last month was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country in recent years and led to the closure of the plant.
Six employees from the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical company, whose plant was involved in the blast, have “major responsibilities” in relation to the incident, the Yancheng government said Saturday in a brief statement on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.
It said that “criminal coercive measures” have been taken against them — a vague term which indicates detention, arrest or being put under temporary house arrest until police complete investigations, according to an explanation on the Chinese parliament’s website.
Three others had also earlier been detained in connection with the blast.
The statement added that measures will also be taken against Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical, as well as its controlling shareholder, the Jiangsu Nijiaxiang Group.
The March 21 explosion razed an industrial park and blew out the windows of surrounding homes.
The company, with 195 employees, was established in 2007 and mainly produces raw chemical materials including anisole, a highly flammable compound.
It 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 breaking rules on solid and water waste management.
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 envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.