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Explosion claims 7 at Henan chemical factory

AN explosion ripped through a chemical factory yesterday, killing seven people and leaving another nine seriously injured in Yanshi City, Henan Province.

The blast occurred at Luoran Co Ltd in Yanshi at 2am while 17 people were working. Five bodies were found dead in the immediate aftermath and nine people were seriously injured.

Two more bodies were found late yesterday, a rescue headquarters official said. One worker was unhurt.

Declaring an end to rescue work late yesterday, Liu Shangjin, acting mayor of Yanshi, ordered an investigation into the incident, including what caused the blast and a calculation of property damage.

The official said a fire in a warehouse had caused the explosion of about 10 tons of chlorobenzene, a flammable intermediate for making other chemicals.

The factory was engulfed in flames and firefighters only succeeded in extinguishing the blaze at midday.

Rescuers said they found the location of two workers in the debris around midday, and life detectors showed that at least one was still alive.

"But the pungent, toxic air hindered the speed of the rescue operation, so when we eventually reached them, they were already dead," said one rescuer. Some rescuers complained of chest pains, as well as red and watering eyes.

Local environmental protection departments said they had sealed the discharge pipe at the chemical plant and had been closely monitoring the quality of the air around the area.

Tests showed that the explosion caused no pollution to local rivers and groundwater, said an environmental protection department official.

Hundreds of residents living within a 1,000-meter radius of the factory were evacuated shortly after the explosion. A total of 108 residents were injured, mostly by flying glass, the rescue official said.


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