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Gas leak leaves 18 residents in hospital
By Yu Zhong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-10 01:07

A sulphur dioxide leak at a factory in Central China on Tuesday has resulted in 18 area residents being taken to hospital with breathing difficulties.

The poisoned receive treatment at a local hospital in Yidu, Hubei Province November 9, 2004. [newsphoto]
The accident occurred near midnight at a chemical firm in the city of Yidu in Hubei Province when a lightning-triggered blackout damaged a sulphur dioxide insulating tower.

"Most of the 108 people, who had symptoms of respiratory diseases including coughing and distress, have returned home after careful examination at hospital," a senior official surnamed Nie with the Yidu Security Supervision Bureau said.

But 18 of them, who were seriously poisoned, are still in hospital. They have been proved out of danger, Nie said.

The accident site has been closed and the source of the leak is now under control.

"The breeze at night is helping reduce the density of the chemical in the air, so the livee of neighbouring residents should not be affected," said Nie.

Although local authorities are still conducting investigations, the official pointed out that a poor security system at the Chuxing Company, the chemical producer, will force the firm to take some responsibility.

"Having its output capacity expanded in recent years, the company ignored upgrading its emergency power supply system for its sulphur dioxide insulating tower," Nie said.

So when the sudden blackout happened, the system was not able to respond or safeguard the normal operations of the tower, he said.

The Yidu government is now dealing with the aftermath by sending officials related to security supervision, environmental protection and health care to the affected village.

In April, nine people died in a toxic chlorine gas leak in southwestern Chongqing Municipality as 30,000 people were forced to evacuate homes.

In the same month, Beijing, Jiangxi and Zhejiang also reported poisonous gas leaks, which claimed five lives.

Outdated security equipment is a top reason for serial accidents, as the State Council said in April.

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