At least 47 people were killed yesterday in an explosion at a chemical plant in Chenjiagang Industrial Park in Yancheng, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province. The blast also injured 640 others, 90 of them seriously. The explosion was so powerful that the China Earthquake Administration reported it had detected a magnitude 2.2 earthquake believed to be from the blast.
Injured residents scrambled for medical help after the explosion tore through the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant. In the hours before dawn today, injured people were still streaming into the emergency ward at Xiangshui People’s Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Xiangshui county, about 300km north of Shanghai.
“When we got out of our house and set off to the hospital, people were fleeing our village like refugees and desperately asking for rides on the streets,” said Xu Meihua, whose shop was destroyed by the blast. “We had explosions in the past, but never as deadly as this one.”
Xu had arrived at the hospital shortly after 7pm with a cough that worsened into breathing difficulties.
She lives near the pesticide plant and was settling down for a nap when the facility exploded. She was diagnosed as being poisoned by smoke from the blast and put on an intravenous drip.
Dozens of relatives waited anxiously outside the hospital’s casualty area, which was guarded by the police.
Eight-year-old Xu Mengyao was discharged after being given 30 stitches in her forehead. The explosion had shattered the windows of her classroom at a school 20 minutes’ walk from the plant.
With all nearby clinics full, Mengyao's parents were turned away from three places before they could find help. Once her wound was stitched up, her parents took her to A hospital to be treated for her cough.
Cao Lubao, mayor of Yancheng, where the blast occurred, said today that the fire had been put out and that nearly 3,000 people – employees of nearby plants and residents – had been evacuated after the explosion.
Schools and kindergartens had been closed while the authorities monitored air and water quality, Cao said.
The plant has been flattened and reduced to rubble, with only part of the workshop frame still standing. Its bosses have been taken into police custody.
A survivor who was standing by the roadside 1½km from the factory said the impact blew him and two of his friends off their feet, sending them tumbling in the air. “The air blast hit us and sent us up in the air,” the man, surnamed Lan, told the Beijing News. “I can’t describe it. It was horrifying.”