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September 12, 2009

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Worker dies in factory gas blast

A WORKER died after breathing noxious fumes from an explosion and fire in northeast Shanghai's Waigaoqiao area yesterday morning.

The victim was identified as Chen Jinhua, 53, an employee of the Sinopec Shanghai Gaoqiao branch. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the Shanghai No. 7 People's Hospital in Pudong.

A company official blamed the blast, which apparently occurred when methane gas ignited, on lax safety practices. An investigation into the exact cause of the mishap was still under way.

There were no other casualties and no reports that anyone off-site had been affected by the plumes of black smoke that poured skyward.

The blast occurred at about 9:40am in a division of the Shanghai Gaoqiao Petrochemical Co, a branch of Chinese oil giant Sinopec.

Witnesses said the explosion appeared to originate in an open area where waste oil had been dumped. Chen was driving a forklift in the area at the time, said Zhu Zugen, a company official.

"Sparks from the forklift might have ignited methane gas among the waste," Zhu said.

The fire spread quickly to a nearby warehouse that held flammable material such as waste tires and rubber, damaging a 400-square-meter area.

"When we arrived at 9:55am, we found a big fire with black smoke, and the warehouse was hardly visible," a firefighter surnamed Chen said.

It took 170 firefighters from five stations about 25 minutes to put out the blaze.

The worker was not able to escape from the fire and inhaled noxious fumes that burned his upper respiratory tract, doctors said.

"The safety consciousness of the management needs to be intensified," Zhu said yesterday. "The chemical waste should be disposed of in a timely and scientific manner. It's dangerous to store such flammable material for long."


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