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June 25, 2013

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6 critical after city chemical plant fire

SIX workers were critically burned yesterday afternoon in the city's second petrochemical plant fire in as many days, officials said.

More than 60 fire engines were sent to an industrial zone in Jinshan District where the Shanghai Shengying Petrochemical Co factory reported a fire at 2:17pm. Fire officials said the blaze was caused by an explosion of a reaction kettle, but the cause of the explosion was still under investigation.

The workers were sent to hospitals for treatment while many of their burns were described as potentially life threatening, officials said.

About a fourth of the factory's 800 square meters on two floors was damaged by the fire, authorities said.

The fire was under control by 3pm, but fire officials did not extinguish the fire until 4pm to eliminate potentially toxic material, firefighters said. Environmental authorities were monitoring air and water conditions.

The factory contained equipment to add ethylene oxide to alcohols and phenols to produce polyether surfactants.

Ethylene oxide is hazardous substance that is flammable, carcinogenic, mutagenic and irritating, published reports say. Surfactants are widely used for such purposes as wetting agents, conditioners and emulsifiers, and while most have low toxicity, some can be skin irritants.

Yesterday's blaze was the second petrochemical plant fire within two days.

Part of a petrochemical factory that's one of the largest acrylic acid producers in China was engulfed in fire for several hours on Sunday in the Pudong New Area, but no one was injured.

The fire at Shanghai Huayi Acrylic Acid Co took 50 fire engines to extinguish.

Shanghai held its latest chemical leak emergency drill last Friday. There are more 6,600 companies handling dangerous substances in Shanghai and the number is growing at 10 to 15 percent annually, according to the work safety authority.

The city is strengthening the oversight of the production, storage and transportation of dangerous and chemical goods, which pose a potential danger.


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