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January 6, 2012

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Explosion at chemical plant kills 1, hurts 3

ONE worker died and three others were injured when an explosion ripped through a chemical plant in the city's suburban Songjiang District early yesterday morning.

The district government said two technical workers were developing highly purified peroxyacetic acid and triggered the blast through careless operation. One of them died on the spot. The three injured workers were sent to hospital and were reported not to be in serious condition, officials said. They were not identified.

The explosion happened about 2:30am at Shanghai Habo Chemical Technology Co, authorities said.

"It was horrible and it was like the plant was bombed," said one of the injured workers.

The man, who lived in the factory dormitory and didn't reveal his name, said he heard five explosions that shook him awake. "Before I could make any reaction, the windows of my room were smashed and cut my arm," he said.

The powerful shock wave from the blast shattered windows of the factory and nearby buildings within 200 to 300 meters.

"Fortunately it was early in the morning before dawn and the plant was almost empty," said a witness who was on duty in a factory nearby when the explosion occurred. "I can't imagine if such an explosion happened during the day."

The huge sound of the blast was heard up to 4 kilometers away, as some residents updated their microblogs right after the explosion happened.

The explosion of peroxyacetic acid caused a serious chemical smell in the area but officials said that air-quality monitoring showed no environmental hazard in the vicinity of the blast.

Habo is a major chemical company in the area and its main products are peroxyacetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Peroxyacetic acid is widely used as bleaching agent and bactericidal agent.

It is also a strong oxidant and explodes when the concentration is higher than 45 percent or being placed at minus 20 degrees Celsius.


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