An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed 47 people and injured more than 600, the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public.
The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province, and the fire was finally brought under control at 3.00 a.m. on Friday (1900 GMT).
Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals with 640 people being treated for injuries, and 32 in critical condition, it said.
The fire at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighbouring factories. Children at a nearby kindergarten were also hurt, media said.
The cause of the explosion is being investigated, but the company – which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some highly flammable – has been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the China Daily said.
Police, some wearing face masks, sealed off roads to the plant. The blast smashed windows in the village of Wangshang two kilometres (1.2 miles) away, and shocked villagers likened it to an earthquake.
“There was one loud bang followed by a long rumble,” one, who gave his family name as Wang, told Reuters. “All the windows were smashed. I went to have a look. Near the site there was blood everywhere. People were crushed.”The village stands beside a murky mildewed pond and was built in 2013 for people displaced by the construction of the industrial park where the blast took place. Dozens of Wangshang residents work at the park, and many have not come home.
Many buildings had broken windows and further structural damage, but villagers have not been evacuated. Unlike the police on site, none of them wore masks and had not been advised to.
President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, ordered all-out efforts to care for the injured and to “earnestly maintain social stability”.
“Authorities must step up action to prevent such incidents and determine the cause of the blast as quickly as possible,” Xi added.
“There has recently been a series of major accidents, and all places and relevant departments must fully learn the lessons from these,” the report cited Xi as saying.
Late on Thursday, the Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said in a statement that the environmental monitoring station in the area had found no abnormal concentrations of chemicals such as toluene, xylene or benzene.
Concentrations of acetone and chloroform outside the blast zone were also within normal limits, it added.
Jiangsu will carry out inspections chemical producers and warehouses, an emergency notice said on Friday.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Additional reporting by Dominique Patton, Ben Blanchard and Lusha Zhang in BEIJING; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez)