BEIJING – The death toll from an explosion at a chemical plant in China’s eastern Jiangsu province has climbed to 64, while 28 people remain missing, official news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The authorities in the city of Yancheng, where Thursday’s accident occurred, said that rescue teams were working round the clock to try and find those still missing. One survivor was rescued on Saturday morning.
The explosion wounded 640 people, 94 of them seriously, while 21 remain to be in a critical state.
“Thousands of firefighters and medical workers and hundreds of ambulances and fire trucks have joined an all-out rescue after the explosion,” Xinhua reported.
The explosion happened after a fire broke out at a pesticide factory owned by the company Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical, whose owners have been arrested.
According to Hong Kong-based daily the South China Morning Post, 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.
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.
The schools and kindergartens in the areas were closed and around 3,000 people were evacuated, while authorities have been monitoring the air and water quality in the region.
Dozens of workers were trapped after some buildings collapsed due to the shock wave produced by the blast.
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.
Accidents are frequent 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 (62 miles) 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.