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18 killed in chemical plant blasts

The death toll from explosions that ripped through a chemical plant in southwest China rose to least 18 on Wednesday.

world Updated: Aug 27, 2008 13:10 IST

The death toll from explosions that ripped through a chemical plant in southwest China rose to least 18 on Wednesday, a local official said.

Twenty other people were still missing, a Ms Huang from the propaganda department of the local Communist Party said. She would not give her first name as is common with officials in China. Another 60 people were injured, she said.

The official Xinhua News Agency put the death toll at 14, with six people still missing.

The first explosion occurred at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday in Yizhou city in Guangxi province and the blasts continued until 1 p.m. Fire spread over a nearly 108,000-square-foot (10,000-square-meter) area, Xinhua said, citing an unidentified firefighter in the rescue operation.

The government evacuated 11,500 residents in case of further blasts and chemical leaks.

Poisonous gases, mainly sulfurated hydrogen and carbon monoxide, were still coming from the site, Ge Xianmin, Guangxi's toxic substances emergency center director, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

State broadcaster CCTV said some chemicals were still burning, and rescuers had to wait for them to be put out before looking for the missing people.

Regional work safety authorities were investigating the cause of the blasts.

Fan Yinfeng, an operator at the fire brigade under the Yizhou Public Security Bureau, said firefighters from nearby towns were mobilized to help.

"With explosions continuing and a fire raging, it is quite treacherous for rescuers, since there are huge hidden dangers amid the blasts, along with leaks of toxic gases such as ammonia and formaldehyde," Ma Dewen, the firefighter in charge of the rescue efforts, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The plant is in a development zone of Yizhou city and mainly produces chemicals for adhesives and paints, Xinhua said. It is owned by Guangxi Guangwei Chemical Co.

Thousands die each year in China from fires, explosions and other industrial accidents often blamed on insufficient safety equipment and workers ignoring safety rules.