August 29, 2008

1st-Ld-Writethru: No Serious Pollution After Fatal Chemical Plant Blast in S. China

1st-Ld-Writethru: No serious pollution after fatal chemical plant blast in S. China

YIZHOU, Guangxi, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Tuesday morning's explosion at a chemical plant in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region that killed 18 people caused no serious pollution to air or water, authorities said here on Wednesday.

The regional Department of Environmental Protection said samples taken after the explosion that ripped through an organic compound workshop inside the plant, owned by Guangxi Guangwei Chemical Co., showed no signs of contamination.

The workshop blast led to further explosions in nearby containers storing flammable substances, such as formaldehyde and acetylene.

Rescuers used about 14 tons of active carbon in puddles, formed in the process of putting out the fire, to neutralize and absorb the pollutants. They also set up four dams at the pollutant discharging area to prevent the run-off from flowing into the neighbouring Longjiang River.

The environment department set up 11 observation points along the river to monitor water quality.

As of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, samples taken from the river showed the water was qualified for drinking and the methanol thickness in the nearby village was within standard, according to the regional environment observation center.

Besides the dead, four others were missing, while 50 injured were receiving hospital treatment, the rescue headquarters said.

Sixteen of those killed were plant workers, while the other two had yet to be identified.

The explosions, which first occurred at 6 a.m., persisted until almost 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The fire spread over a 10,000 square meter area, said a firefighter. The blaze was put out by Tuesday evening. Firefighters were still searching for the missing among the debris.

About 11,500 people living within 3 km of the plant were evacuated.

More than 100 chemical emergency specialists were dispatched to the site to assess the safety situation. Regional work safety authorities were investigating.

The plant mainly produces polyvinyl acetate (PVA) for use in adhesives, calcium carbide and vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) for paint, 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 (about 50 million U.S. dollars), the plant manufactures products worth about 300 million yuan annually. Its largest shareholders are state-owned companies.

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