Ex­plo­sion at chem­i­cal plant in east China city in­jures 19

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Nine­teen peo­ple were in­jured in an ex­plo­sion at a con­tro­ver­sial chem­i­cal plant in the eastern Chi­nese city of Zhangzhou, re­ports said Tues­day, the sec­ond ac­ci­dent at the site in two years.

Footage broad­cast by CCTV News showed flames bil­low­ing into the air fol­low­ing the ex­plo­sion at the plant pro­duc­ing paraxy­lene — a chem­i­cal com­monly known as PX and used to make fab­ric in Fu­jian prov­ince.

The blast oc­curred on Mon­day evening and the 19 in­jured were be­ing treated in hos­pi­tal, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency re­ported, cit­ing pro­vin­cial au­thor­i­ties.

Some 829 fire­fight­ers bat­tled the blaze, Xin­hua said, adding that wit­nesses re­ported feel­ing a tremor as far as 50 kilo­me­ters (30 miles) away.

Lo­cal res­i­dents had been evac­u­ated, it added, and the fire had been con­tained. It was caused by an oil leak at the fa­cil­ity which then caught fire and set off ex­plo­sions at three nearby oil tanks, the re­port said.

It was the sec­ond ac­ci­dent in 20 months at the plant, ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua.

Pro­pos­als for plants pro­duc­ing PX, a flammable and car­cino­genic liq­uid used in the pro­duc­tion of polyester films and fab­rics, have sparked large protests in sev­eral Chi­nese cities in re­cent years over per­ceived health risks.

The Zhangzhou PX plant was orig­i­nally slated to be built in the nearby coastal city of Xi­a­men, but was moved to its present site af­ter thou­sands took part in a protest in 2007.

In March last year thou­sands of demon­stra­tors also took to the streets of Maom­ing, in the south­ern prov­ince of Guang­dong, for days of demon­stra­tions against an­other PX plant.

The ral­lies un­der­scored the in­creas­ing num­ber of an­gry protests over en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns in the coun­try, where three decades of rapid and un­fet­tered industrial ex­pan­sion have taken a heavy toll.

The min­is­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment said in March that con­struc­tion of PX projects must be “sci­en­tif­i­cally de­cided and must pass en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment,” Xin­hua re­ported Mon­day.

In a sign of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s sen­si­tiv­ity to the de­bate over en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, com­ments had been dis­abled on a re­port about the Zhangzhou in­ci­dent on the Netease web por­tal as of Tues­day morn­ing.

Yet dis­cus­sion of the ex­plo­sion dom­i­nated China’s popular on­line so­cial net­works, with many users cit­ing the in­ci­dent as vin­di­ca­tion of pro­test­ers’ fears.

“Do you re­mem­ber what we were wor­ried about at the time?” wrote a user on Sina Weibo, a Chi­nese Twit­ter equiv­a­lent, re­fer­ring to sim­i­lar protests in the north­east­ern city of Dalian in 2011. “What we wor­ried about is now the re­al­ity in Zhangzhou.”

AP

In this photo re­leased by Xhin­hua News Agency, a res­cuer evac­u­ates res­i­dents near the site of a chem­i­cal plant blast in Zhangzhou in China’s Fu­jian prov­ince on Tues­day, April 7.

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