August 26, 2008

Death Toll in China Chemical Plant Blast Rises to 16

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

YIZHOU, Guangxi, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) - The death toll from an explosion at a chemical plant in south China has reached 16 after rescuers found five more bodies on Tuesday evening.

Six others are still listed as missing and 57 were injured in the blast which happened at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

Fourteen of the dead were identified as workers at the plant, while the other two were yet to be identified, according to the rescue headquarters.

The blaze at the plant in Yizhou City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, had been put out on Tuesday evening, but smoke was still rising at the site.

The explosions persisted until almost 1 p.m. The fire spread over 10,000 sq m, said a firefighter who participated in the rescue operation.

About 11,500 people, living within 3 km of the plant, owned by Guangxi Guangwei Chemical Co., were evacuated from their homes.

Environment experts went to the area along the Longjiang River, which abuts the plant, to monitor the water quality for contamination.

More than 100 chemical emergency specialists were dispatched to the site to assess the safety situation.

Fire fighters were still searching for the missing in the debris.

Ge Xianmin, Guangxi's toxic substances emergency centre director, said poisonous gases, mainly sulphureted hydrogen and carbon monoxide, were still coming from the site. Residents within one km should be safe, but rescuers still needed to wear masks.

Regional work safety authorities are investigating the cause of the accident.

The plant mainly produces polyvinyl acetate (PVA), which is used in adhesives, calcium carbide, and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM), which is used in paints, adhesives and coatings.

The plant is in a development zone of Yizhou City, a four-hour drive from the regional capital of Nanning.

With assets of 340 million yuan (50 million US dollars), the plant manufactures products worth about 300 million yuan a year, and its largest shareholders are state-owned companies.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 1515 26 Aug 08.

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