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China: Deathtoll surges in chemical plant fire

At least 44 people have been killed in a chemical plant explosion in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu, the local government said on Friday.

Public anger has grown in China following several deadly industrial accidents ranging from chemical plant blasts to mining disasters over the past decade.

Devastating incident:

  • More than 600 people were injured, including 32 in critical condition
  • The explosion triggered a 2.2 magnitude earthquake
  • Authorities are investigating the cause of the explosion.
  • Firefighters have brought the blaze under control.

Read more: Opinion: Xi Jinping is taking China down a dangerous path

A blaze rages at a chemical plant in China's Jiangsu province

It took hours for emergency crews to bring the blaze under control

‘Government must take urgent action’

Wary of growing anger at industrial accidents, Beijing has vowed for years to improve industrial safety standards and increase oversight. But environmentalists say little has changed and workers are still at risk.

“Tragic accidents occur on an almost daily basis,” said Greenpeace researcher Cheng Qian in a report. “The government must take urgent action to manage chemicals in a sound manner, provide a safety net for workers and citizens, and protect ecologically important areas across the country.”

History of accidents

China has been rocked by deadly industrial accidents in recent years. In 2015, a massive explosion at a site in Tianjin killed more than 170 people. Authorities traced the explosion to improperly stored hazardous chemicals.

Last November, 52 people fell ill due to a major chemical spill in Fujian province, while 23 were killed in a chemical plant explosion in Zhangjiakou.

Read more: As China takes ‘center stage,’ Europe stands at a crossroads

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ls/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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