UPDATE: The Death Toll From Chemical Plant Blast In Eastern China Rises To 78

Update: The death toll of a chemical plant blast happened Thursday afternoon in Eastern China has risen to 78, of whom 56 have been identified. The 28 missing people announced in the last official press release has been confirmed--25 of them dead, 3 others safe. The explosion injured at least 640, among whom 94 were injured seriously, according to the latest report of State-run CCTV.  

The death toll and injury scale made this explosion the largest industrial accident in recent years.

The power of the explosion was enormous that even China's earthquake administration reported a tremor equivalent to 2.2-magnitude at 2:48 pm, March 21st, exactly at the time of the blast. And according to a live report, residential buildings that are 10 kilometers away from the explosion area reported the damage in different degree.

According to the public information, the plant is a benzene production facility run by Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co. - located in Xiangshui ecological chemical industry zone.

The company's name was showed on public notice of State Administration of Work Safety's website last year, the notice listed 13 safety problems at the plant after an onsite inspection, including that the main person in charge is not qualified for safety knowledge and management ability.

Within 5 kilometers around Tianjiayi, there are 82 chemical factories with similar illegal records, which have long been a hidden danger.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the blast. Zhou Min, a survive staff of the General Control Office of the plant told Beijing News that the explosion started from Iron shed in the factory, where the natural gas caught fire.

"We used to burn straw as fuel, but according to the request of environmental protection, the factory change to use natural gas in late 2018," said Zhou. She witnessed that when the explosion occurred, the ceiling of the general control room collapsed, nine female employees were buried inside, and her ear also hurt by glass fragments. She is being treated in the hospital currently.

Smoke billows from the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui
(Photo : REUTERS)
Smoke billows from the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical following an explosion, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China March 22, 2019.REUTERS/Aly Song

The explosion triggered public concern about the chemical pollution of air and water. Local government has announced on Weibo that authority will properly evacuate the masses, guide around 3,000 workers and close to 1,000 residents to safe areas; the environment department will closely track the air and water quality. They also confirmed that drinking water for the local resident is not affected.

According to the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Eco-Environment, there is no drinking water source near the downstream of the river near the explosion accident site, and the local department has blocked the wastewater from the explosion point from entering the river.

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