SHANGHAI – The death toll from an explosion at a chemical plant in Yancheng, in China’s Jiangsu province, has risen to 44, according to the latest data provided on Friday by local authorities.
Chinese media quoting local authorities said the blast injured 90 people, 32 of whom were in critical condition and 58 in a serious state.
The explosion took place around 2:48 pm local time (0648 GMT) on Thursday after a fire broke out at a pesticide factory in the industrial zone.
The explosion was so powerful that it tore down the buildings of nearby factories and shattered the windows of the surrounding houses. It also caused an earthquake of magnitude 2.2.
Workers were trapped after some buildings collapsed due to the shock wave produced by the blast and, according to the rescue teams, at least 88 people were rescued from the area.
Witnesses quoted by the Chinese news agency Xinhua said many of the workers were seen running from the factory covered in blood.
The images published by the local media showed a large column of black smoke as a result of the explosion while another video posted showed how the factory or an adjoining building blew up in the air as dozens of people who were in the vicinity escaped smeared with blood.
According to the Hong Kong daily the South China Morning Post on Thursday, the company that owns the plant where the fire originated had received six administrative sanctions for violating legislation on waste management, environmental impact, and air pollution.
Accidents happen frequently in the Chinese industrial sector in which, despite new initiatives, regulations remain lax.
On Nov. 28, at least 22 people died and another 22 were injured in an explosion near a chemical plant in the city of Zhangjiakou, 100 kilometers northwest of the national capital Beijing.
In 2015, the northern city of Tianjin was the scene of one of the most serious incidents in recent years, in which at least 170 people were killed after an explosion at a container terminal in the city’s port.