At least 47 people have died in an explosion at a plant in Yancheng, China Thursday run by a chemical company with a history of environmental violations, Sky News reported.
The blast forced more than 3,000 people to evacuate the area, AFP reported. More than 600 are injured and 90 are in the hospital with serious injuries following one of the country's worst industrial disasters in recent years. The blast from the explosion was so strong that it caused a minor earthquake and felled nearby factory buildings, trapping workers. It also blew out windows in houses around three miles away, according to Sky.
A 60-year-old woman with the last name Xiang told AFP that she had long been worried about the safety of the plant.
"We knew we'd be blown up one day," she said.
The blast caused fires to ignite in the industrial park where the plant was located, but firefighters said they had extinguished the flames by Friday. Hundreds of rescue workers had been sent to the area, according to local authorities.
However, residents in the surrounding area, many of them elderly, said they had not received any help from the government. Some had abandoned their homes and others were sweeping up the glass from broken windows themselves.
The plant where the explosion occurred was run by the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical company, which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, according to Sky. In February of last year, China's State Administration for Work Safety found 13 safety hazards at the company, including improper handling of benzene, the chemical that caused Thursday's explosion. In total, the company had amassed 1,790,000 RMB (approximately $266,440) in fines since 2016 because of environmental violations.
The cause of Thursday's explosion is not yet known. Chinese President Xi Jinping, currently on a state visit to Italy, urged for "all-out efforts" to rescue those still trapped in collapsed buildings and for the cause of the incident be determined "as early as possible," AFP reported in a later article. Local authorities looking into the explosion said an undetermined number of people had been taken into custody on Friday.
Nearby residents are now concerned about the spread of pollution following the accident.
"We don't have drinkable water here," Xiang told AFP. "Why hasn't the government sent us some water?"
However, local environmental agencies said that they had set up monitors around the industrial park where the accident took place, and said that strong winds looked likely to flush out toxins in the air, CNN reported.
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