Chemical gas leak causes deadly explosive chain reaction

Article by Amanda Jasi

CHEMCHINA has released a statement stating that a blast which killed 23 and injured 22 was caused by a vinyl chloride gas leak at its subsidiary Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry Company, reported Reuters. The company is located in Zhangjiakou, China.

The explosion occurred on 21 November as acetylene was being delivered to nearby Haipo'er New Energy Technology Company, reported official news agency, Xinhua

A vinyl chloride gas leak at the chemicals company caused a truck to explode. That explosion led to a series of blasts that resulted in the casualties, and ignited 50 vehicles, Xinhua reported.  

The news company also reported that those injured were sent to hospitals for treatment.

Rescue work later came to a close on 28 November, according to another Xinhua report.

According to Reuters, ChemChina said buildings were also burned. And Xinhua reported that the resulting blasts also damaged a high-voltage power line leading to power outages at four communication base stations and several companies.

Today, ChemChina released a statement on its website (Chinese language version) apologising for the accident, saying that it reflected serious problems in its safety management systems.   

An earlier Reuters report stated that state media broadcast a video of the blast scene showing billowing smoke and flames. Released photographs showed rows of burned out cars and trucks.

China has struggled to regulate its industrial safety in the wake of rapid growth, and this accident is just the latest in a series of industrial accidents that have angered the public. Earlier this year 19 people were killed in a blast at a chemical plant.

Often mentioned is the 2015 explosion of a chemical site in Tianjin, China, which killed 165 people and injured a further 798. Eight people were left missing. The cause was found to be the improper and illegal storage of hazardous materials. 49 people were convicted for their involvement.

The Chinese government cracked down on safety following the incident in Tianjin, but fatal accidents continue to be relatively common.

Zhangjiakou is located in the northern province of Hebei, China. Hebei is near Beijing, and along with the capital it is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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