July 29, 2006

Death toll in China factory blast rises to 22

BEIJING (Reuters) - The death toll from an explosion at a
chemical plant in eastern China has risen to 22 but more than
7,000 people evacuated after the blast have now gone home,
Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

The blast, which occurred on Friday morning when a chemical
reactor exploded during a test run, injured 28 others,
including the chairman and general manager of the company, the
report said.

"Preliminary investigation showed improper operation by
workers was mainly to blame for the accident," Xinhua said of
the incident, which happened in Sheyang in Jiangsu province.

In November, a petrochemical plant blast in the
north-eastern province of Jilin killed at least five workers
and sent 100 metric tons of toxic benzene compounds into the
Songhua River, cutting water supplies to a city of 3 million
for days.

The Sheyang blast had caused toxic chlorine gas to be
released into the air, but it has already dispersed with little
effect on the environment, Xinhua said.