Toll in China chemical plant explosion rises to 18 (Lead)

August 27th, 2008 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 27 (DPA) A series of explosions at a chemical plant left 18 people dead and two missing in southwest China’s Guangxi region, the government and state media said Wednesday.The explosions and a fire Tuesday at the Guangwei Chemical Company also injured 60 workers and local residents, the State Administration of Work Safety reported on its website.

The fire spread over 10,000 sq metres and forced the evacuation of 11,500 local residents in Guangxi’s Yizhou city, Xinhua news agency reported.

The semi-official China News Service said the death toll had risen to 18 by Wednesday afternoon and that 10 of the injured were discharged from local hospitals.

Rescuers were continuing to search for at least two people still missing since firefighters extinguished the fire some 12 hours after the first explosion, the agency said.

Photographs showed flames at least 10 metres high in part of the chemical plant Tuesday.

At least five of the injured were local residents, while the remainder were workers at the plant, the reports said.

Local officials were investigating the cause of the explosion at the plant, which mainly produced polyvinyl acetate (PVA) and similar chemicals for use in adhesives, paints and coatings.

The first explosion in a workshop caused a chain of blasts in containers of flammable substances including formaldehyde and acetylene, Xinhua said.

Environmental experts were monitoring the air quality and the nearby Longjiang river but had found no evidence of chemical pollution after the accident.

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