Blast at China Chemical Plant Kills 14

An explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China killed 14 people and injured 30, the government said Saturday, in the second disaster to hit the country's chemical industry in as many days.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the death toll rose to 14 from 10 on Saturday but did not say if more bodies had been found of if some of those being treated for injuries had died. The report cited Chen Shuo, deputy director of the Anhui Provincial Administration of Work Safety.

Xinhua said it was still not known how many people had been in the factory when the explosion happened.

It wasn't immediately clear what sparked Friday's blast at the chemical explosives factory owned by the Dun'an Chemical group Co., Ltd. in Anhui, said a statement posted on the Maanshan city government Web site. Maanshan oversees Dangtu County, where the plant is located.

CountryWatch: China

Xinhua reported that the factory's two-story workshop was razed and that firefighters were still working Saturday to put out the fire. The site was sealed off as a precaution in case another explosion was triggered.

Three earth movers were clearing the factory ruins to prevent another blast, it said.

The Maanshan city statement quoted the provincial communist party head, Guo Jinlong, said an investigation into the cause of the blast had been launched.

A woman at the Anhui Provincial Administration of Work Safety reached by telephone said it was unclear whether the blast had caused any water or air pollution to surrounding areas. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, the official refused to give her name.

It was the second blast to hit China's chemical industry this week. On Thursday, a series of explosions at the Longxing Chemical Co. plant in Zhejiang province left one person injured and two missing.

The plant, which is close to the Oujiang River, mainly produces hydrogen peroxide — a chemical commonly used for bleaching, antiseptics and deodorants, Xinhua reported earlier. Industrial hydrogen peroxide contains arsenic, heavy metals and other toxic ingredients.

Emergency workers trucked sand and rocks to the blast site to prevent contamination of a nearby spring that feeds into Oujiang, Xinhua said.

Some 4.7 million people live along the Oujiang, which winds its way nearly 400 kilometers (360 miles) to the East China Sea.