Beijing: A truck carrying hazardous chemicals exploded outside a chemical plant in China’s northern Hebei province on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people and leaving as many others injured, the second major industrial disaster in the country in the last four days.
The blast occurred outside the Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry in Zhangjiakou, Qiaodong district around 12:40 am, igniting a fire that engulfed nearby vehicles, the officials were quoted as saying by thepaper.cn, a Shanghai-based website.
An industrial safety official, identified only as Wu, said that one of the trucks lined up outside the plant to deliver chemicals had exploded, setting off a chain reaction that engulfed other trucks.
Chinese news reports, and images from the scene, indicated that a fiery explosion near the plant had set around 50 vehicles ablaze, including dozens of trucks, and sent a dark plume of smoke into the night sky.
The fire has now been contained, and a search operation is underway, authorities said. The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital.
Employees at the Shenghua plant said operation has been suspended out of safety concern.
Shenghua is affiliated with China Haohua Chemical Group, a subsidiary of State-owned ChemChina, which is ranked 167th among Global Fortune 500 enterprises.
Fu Jianhua, the vice-minister of emergency management, has led a team to the site to guide relief work, the report said.
Zhangjiakou, a city about 156 km northwest of Beijing, is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics alongside the capital. Industrial safety is a major concern in China, where requirements for the storage and transport of chemicals and other dangerous products are often weakly enforced.
This is the second major industrial explosion in China in the last four days. Two people were killed and 57 injured in a warehouse explosion in northeast China’s Jilin Province on November 24.
A total of 370 houses have been damaged, with 15 having collapsed. A massive explosion in 2015 traced to improperly stored chemicals killed at least 173 people in Tianjin, about an hour east of Beijing.