China Grapples With Blast, Chemical Spill in Latest Accidents

Bloomberg News | Jul 29, 2010 | 12:38 PM GMT+0530

China sent hundreds of officials to assist people hurt in a gas-pipeline blast in the city of Nanjing and to retrieve 3,000 barrels of hazardous chemicals that washed into a river in Jilin as authorities grappled with the latest in a string of industrial accidents. The explosion at an abandoned factory in the eastern city of Nanjing killed at least 12 people and left another 15 seriously injured, state broadcaster China Central Television reported late yesterday. Workers demolishing buildings at the Nanjing No. 4 Plastics Factory damaged a propylene pipeline, causing the blast, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. “It felt like an earthquake,” said Chen Ming, a resident who lives less than 500 meters from the site of the explosion. “Things fell from the shelves and hit me. I ran out of my house and found everyone was standing outside.”

The accidents in Nanjing and Jilin yesterday followed an acid leak at Zijin Mining Group Co.’s copper and gold mines in the eastern province of Fujian and an oil spill in northeastern China that shut beaches and a port this month. China’s work safety administration last week ordered intensified measures at factories, mines and construction sites to prevent accidents. The city of Jilin shut off the local water supply yesterday after barrels containing trimethyl chloro silicane, a colorless flammable chemical, were washed into the Songhuajiang River from a local factory by floodwaters, China Daily reported. Water supplies resumed this morning, Luan Yajie, an official from the water quality department of Jilin Water Group Co. said by phone.

Blast Site

In Nanjing, the police set up a cordon around the blast site today. The government of Jiangsu province, which Nanjing is the capital of, dispatched 900 officials to assist local residents affected by the blast. Damaged houses are being repaired and the supply of water, electricity and gas has been “basically” restored, the government said on its website. Responsibility for the blast is being investigated, it said. Half a dozen local residents living near the blast site blocked a road this morning to protest the lack of electricity amid high temperatures in Nanjing. The city of almost 10 million people was forecast to see temperatures of as high as 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the China Meteorological Administration. Police later carried them away from the road, allowing traffic to continue.

‘Flattened’ Homes

One hundred and twenty people were hospitalized after the blast at 10:15 a.m. local time yesterday, CCTV reported. Buildings and vehicles within 100 meters (109 yards) were badly damaged, Xinhua reported. Houses near the plant were “flattened,” according to a report on the website of the State Administration of Work Safety. In the city of Jilin, workers had recovered about 400 of the 7,000 barrels that were washed by floodwaters into the Songhuajiang, Xinhua reported. About 3,000 of the barrels contained chemicals, Xinhua reported, without saying how many of the barrels retrieved were filled with chemicals. The city is home to more than 4 million people. Flooding in Yongji County in Jilin province, where the city is located, killed 13 people and left six missing, Xinhua reported. The county recorded the heaviest rainfall on record during the evening of July 27 and the early morning of July 28, Xinhua reported. The water quality of the Songhuajiang was normal as of 4 a.m. local time today, Xinhua reported, citing Tao Detian, spokesman for the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The ministry has sent a team to Jilin and also set up an additional seven monitoring sites along the river, Xinhua reported.

Spill Spreads

Water with the chemical barrels will leave Jilin province, in which Jilin city is located, and reach Heilongjiang province in about three days and its capital Harbin in seven days, Xinhua reported, citing Guo Yuan, an official with Heilongjiang environmental protection bureau. Heilongjiang’s government today ordered local authorities to ready precautionary water supplies, according to a statement on its website. The Songhuajiang is the largest tributary of the Heilongjiang River, which runs between China and Russia. The Russian government has asked China for information on the incident, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on its website today, citing Alexander Gavrilov, a climate and environment official.


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