August 27, 2008

China Chemical Plant Blast Death Toll Rises to Five

China chemical plant blast death toll rises to five

NANNING, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- A total of five people died, 55 others were injured and 14 were missing after a chemical plant exploded in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region early on Tuesday, rescuers said.

The fire, yet to be extinguished, was under control, said Ma Dewen, chief of the region's firefighters general squad.

He said about 11,500 people, living within 3 km of the plant, owned by Guangxi Guangwei Chemical Co., were evacuated after the explosion.

It wasn't immediately known how many people were in the plant at the time of the initial blast, at about 6 a.m., and the cause hasn't yet been established.

Environment experts rushed to the area along the Longjiang River, which abuts the plant, and started to monitor the water quality in case of poisoning.

More than 100 anti-chemical warfare professionals were dispatched to the explosion site to scrutinize if there were any explosive chemicals left.

The explosions persisted until almost 1:00 p.m. and the fire spread over 10,000 sq m, said an unidentified firefighter who participated in the rescue operation.

Investigation into the accident's cause is under way.

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

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

With assets of 340 million yuan (50 million U.S. dollars), the plant produces about 300 million yuan a year in chemical products, and its largest shareholders are state-owned companies.

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