Deadly explosion rips through plant

Updated: 2012-02-29 07:49

By Xu Wei and Tong Hao (China Daily)

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Shock from blast felt by villagers living within 2 km of factory

ZHAOXIAN, Hebei - A violent explosion in a chemical factory in North China's Hebei province on Tuesday morning killed at least 13 people and injured 43 others.

The accident occurred at about 9:10 am in the No 1 workshop of Keeper Chemical, which mainly produces pesticide and is located in Zhaoxian county, 40 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital Shijiazhuang.

Deadly explosion rips through plant

Rescuers search a chemical factory where an explosion on Tuesday killed at least 13 people and injured more than 40 in Zhaoxian county in North China's Hebei province. [Photo by Yang Shiyao / Xinhua]

The No 1 workshop was razed to the ground with debris scattered all around. There were about 20 people working at the workshop when the blast happened, Cheng Weiqing, deputy director of Shijiazhuang public security bureau, told Xinhua News Agency.

The 43 injured people have been sent to four hospitals in Zhaoxian and Shijiazhuang. Five of them were seriously injured.

The neighboring two-story No 2 workshop where a large quantity of sulfuric acid was stored has also been badly damaged with large holes in its walls.

Li Jianfei, 24, said he was working at the No 5 workshop about 200 meters from the blast site when he suddenly heard three massive explosions and was thrown to the ground.

"When I crawled out of the workshop, I couldn't move any more. It was someone else who carried me to the ambulance," he told China Central Television. He suffered injuries to his head and waist.

The explosion was so powerful that residents living in at least three villages nearby could feel the shock and windows were broken in some houses within 2 kilometers of the factory.

Some residents moved to their relatives' homes for shelter.

A man surnamed Zhang, who lives in a village about 600 meters from the factory, said he rushed to the accident site immediately after he heard the huge explosion.

"When I arrived, I saw six farmers who had done their farm work outside the plant lying in a ditch. They were injured by the shock wave," he said.

According to the preliminary investigation, the major substance that caused the blast was guanidine nitrate, a combustion-supporting chemical that can irritate the eyes, skin and upper respiratory system. The specific cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Local governments sent 32 vehicles carrying more than 120 firefighters from Zhaoxian and Shijiazhuang for the rescue work. Ambulances were waiting outside the factory for the victims.

Environmental protection authorities from Shijiazhuang also sent monitoring vehicles to the site to oversee potential hazards to the environment.

Police officers have blocked the entrances to the factory and tried hard to persuade a large crowd of people to leave the site for safety concerns.

But some people still tried to break through the cordon, hoping to get any information about their family members or relatives working at the factory.

"I've been searching for my younger brother the whole day. The factory was blocked, so I went to hospitals, but I still did not find him," said a woman surnamed Li who lives nearby, with anxiety and fear on her face.

Li said her brother was 31 years old and began to work at the factory last year. "He just got married this year, and his wife is pregnant."

The factory, Keeper Chemical, is a privately run business and has operated for about two years. Last year, a fire broke out in the factory and no casualties were reported that time, Xinhua cited an anonymous local government official as saying.

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