At least 44 people were killed and hundreds injured in an explosion that rocked a chemical plant in Yancheng, a city in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, city mayor Cao Lubao said at a news conference aired by many Chinese media on Friday, TASS reported.
A total of 16 hospitals in Yancheng and its outskirts rendered medical assistance to about 640 victims of the accident, including 32 people in critical condition, and 58 who were seriously injured.
The rescue and recovery effort involves 192 fire crews and over 930 servicemen. Heavy equipment for debris removal arrived to the area from 12 nearby cities. By now, firefighters extinguished three burning containers with chemicals and five other sources of fire at the plant’s territory.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in Italy on a four-day visit on March 21, called for "all-out" effort to deal with the consequences of the blast.
"Xi Jinping instructed the government of the Jiangsu province and relevant state bodies to make an all-out effort to eliminate the consequences of the disaster and render assistance, continue the search and rescue operation and provide those injured with medical care, to carry out reconstruction works and ensure social stability," the China Central Television reported.
"We need to establish the cause of the accident as soon as possible and to make them public," the TV channel quoted Xi Jinping’s instructions.
The powerful explosion rocked an industrial park in the city on Thursday afternoon, local time. Initial reports said six people were killed and 30 injured. The explosion was so powerful that it shattered windows within the 5-km zone around the plant and was recorded as a magnitude-3 earthquake by the national seismological center.
Local authorities fined Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant at least six times between 2016 and 2018 for numerous violations of environmental laws. The fines amounted to 1.29 million yuan (about $193,000) in total.
According to an official statement, the company’s head, who was among those injured in the blast, is now under police supervision in a hospital ward. A number of other senior managers were detained.