NANJING: An explosion has killed 68 people and injured more than 100 others after ripping through a factory in east China’s Jiangsu Province on Saturday morning, government sources said.
The blast gutted a wheel hub polishing workshop owned by Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co., Ltd in Kunshan City at 7:37 a.m., according to the city government. More than 200 workers were at the site when the explosion happened. Rescuers pulled out over 40 bodies while about 20 others died in hospitals.
An initial probe indicated that the explosion might have been caused by “dust” which ignited inside the workshop, officials said. Photographs circulated on social networking sites showing charred bodies of victims on trucks or lying on the ground as black smoke billowed from the factory. Xinhua reporters at the scene said the blast left two large holes in the factory’s wall, with large equipment and pieces of broken glass scattered around.
A local radio reporter told Xinhua that she saw a patient, whose clothes and hair were completely burned off and his body “as dark as charcoal.” A medical member of staff at Kunshan Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine said most of the injured suffered burns to the body and in the respiratory system. “Every 10 minutes, an ambulance carrying the injured arrived at our hospital. It’s the weekend, so we’re sort of understaffed and have had to call for backup,” said the staff member, who asked for anonymity.
Health officials said some of the injured have been transferred from Kunshan to nearby cities of Suzhou, Wuxi and Shanghai. Doctors and nurses specializing in burns at Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital have arrived at Kunshan to help local hospitals, which are “crowded with injured patients,” according to the hospital. The Kunshan branch of the Red Cross Society of China has asked locals to donate blood.
Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co., Ltd is in Kunshan’s economic and technological development zone, which is 70 kilometers away from Shanghai. Its website said the company has 450 employees and listed General Motors as a client. The factory has been cleared and a further investigation is underway. Officials have said the explosion was a work safety accident. The blast followed a fire and explosion in a petrochemical company in Changzhou City in Jiangsu on Thursday evening, which did not cause casualties.
Images online and on state television showed large plumes of black smoke billowing from a white low-rise building. Many of the injured, who appeared badly burnt in scorched clothing, were shown lying on wooden pallets, waiting to be stretchered on to trucks, public buses and ambulances. Four emergency blood-donation centres were set up in the city to assist casualties, some of whom will be taken to Shanghai and other nearby cities for treatment later on Saturday, state television said. Urged by President Xi Jinping to spare no efforts in the rescue works, Kunshan’s government said it was bringing in doctors from Shanghai and other regions.
“In my 20 years of work, I’ve never seen so many patients with burns on over 80 percent of their bodies,” a senior unnamed doctor was quoted as saying on the Weibo microblog account of China’s CCTV. The doctor warned that the eventual death toll could be “very high”. China, the world’s second-largest economy, has a poor record on workplace safety. Workers are often poorly trained or ill-equipped to protect themselves from industrial accidents. By early afternoon in Kunshan, the police had cordoned off the ageing factory and blocked media access to the local hospital.
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