Five killed, 33 injured in chemical plant explosion

Updated: 2008-01-14 07:22

KUNMING -- Five people were killed, 33 were injured and two others were still missing following a chemical plant explosion on Sunday in Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan Province, the local government said.

The injured had been hospitalized and were out of danger. An official with the city's publicity office told Xinhua that seven seriously injured people were in critical condition.

Rescuers were searching for the missing, according to a notice issued by the city government of Kunming.

"Rescuers said the survival chances for the two missing are very slim," said an official who declined to give his name.

The explosion happened at a sulphuric acid plant under the state-run Yuntianhua International Chemical Industry Co., Ltd., a leading chemical fertilizer producer in China, at 3:52 a.m. Sunday and caused a big fire.

Sulphur powder exploded and caused the fire when workers were loading them in front of a store house, said investigators from the city's work safety administration.

The fire was put out at around 8:00 a.m. Sunday. Air quality in the neighborhood of the sulphuric acid plant, which is less than 40 kilometers from the downtown area of Kunming, remained normal, according to the city's environment protection bureau.

On Sunday afternoon, a great deal of sulphur powder could still be seen in the messy warehouse when policemen with masks and helmets were busy investigating at the scene.

Wang Xiaoguang, vice mayor of Kunming, arrived at the site to supervise the rescue operation and told the city's factories to carry out thorough safety examinations.

The Kunming city government had set up a task force to investigate into cause of the accident and to deal with the aftermath, said Wang.

Located at the Haikou town in Xishan District in western part of Kunming, the sulphuric acid plant is run by the Yunnan Sanhuan Chemical Industry Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Yuntianhua International Chemical Industry Co., Ltd., and it has more than 1,000 employees.

According to Huang Helong, an official with the Yunnan Sanhuan Chemical Industry Co., Ltd., all the victims were workers of the plant.

Huang said the rescue operation had almost finished and the whereabouts of the two missing were still unknown.

Founded in the 1970s, the sulphuric acid plant, which covers more than 50 hectares, is designed to produce 1.39 million tons of sulphuric acid and 1.2 million tons of phosphate sulfate fertilizer annually.

Further investigation of the cause of the incident was underway.

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