China chemical plant explosion. Photo: China Daily
13 Jul 2018

China’s latest chemical explosion kills 19 — recalling the Tianjin tragedy

At least 19 people have been killed and 12 injured following an explosion at a chemical plant in the Sichuan province in southwest China, states local authorities. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

In Chinese social media, pictures of a heavy fire and large smoke clouds rise from the plant.

Explosions and other accidents are common in China because safety rules are not always followed. The authorities have worked to reduce the number of incidents.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, the authorities in Jiang'an county said the blast happened at a chemical plant run by Yibin Hengda Technology.

According to Xinhua the fire, which broke out on Thursday evening, had been put out early on Friday. Those injured in the blast were in a stable condition.

Authorities have begun an investigation, the news agency said.

Yibin Hengda makes chemicals for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

According to local media reports, the three-storey buildings of the factory burnt down to their steel frames and nearby buildings had their windows broken.

On Chinese social media, commenters expressed skepticism about industrial safety standards improving in China. On Weibo, that “every company says it puts safety first every year” but that accidents like Tianjin “never really raise enough attention” among businesses and the authorities meant to regulate them.

Quartz.com reports:

In August 2015, deadly explosions ripped apart warehouses storing dangerous chemicals in the port city of Tianjin, China, killing over 160 people and forming a crater visible from space.

After allegations that the company involved had been illegally operating for years thanks to its owners’ alleged strong political ties, the government vowed to improve the nation’s safety standards and crack down on corruption. Chinese president Xi Jinping said authorities should learn the lessons "paid for in blood".

But the  deadly chemical blast last night has again called into question China’s safety standards. Beijing News, citing the local fire department, reported that methanol caused the blast .

The company involved, Yibin Hengda Technology, makes chemicals for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Founded in 2015, last year it received approval from Sichuan’s environmental protection department to build a $7.5 million chemical production plant, reports Southern Metropolis Daily . The plant is not fully completed but production has begun.

Photo courtesy of China Daily