ChemChina says gas leak at Hebei plant caused blast that killed 23

A woman takes pictures at the site after a blast outside a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

BEIJING (Reuters) – A flammable gas leak at a plant owned by ChemChina subsidiary Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry Co caused a blast that killed 23 people and injured 22 this week in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, ChemChina said in a statement on Friday.

PVC producer Hebei Shenghua had leaked vinyl chloride during production, and it caught fire and caused a chain explosion that burned trucks and buildings, parent company ChemChina said.

In the statement posted on its website, ChemChina apologised for the accident and said it reflected serious problems in its safety management systems.

Zhangjiakou, about 156 km (96 miles) northwest of Beijing, is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics along with the capital.

The National Administration for Work Safety Emergency Response said it will launch an inspection of all large-scale chemical plant plants in the wake of the last explosion, the official Xinhua news Agency reported.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China in recent years after three decades of swift economic growth have been marred by accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires.

In August 2015, 165 people were killed in a chemical warehouse explosion in the port city of Tianjin. The government found that the disaster was causes by improperly or illegally stored hazardous materials.

China has vowed to improve industrial standards, but environmentalists say they fear oversight weaknesses persist, including an opaque production process for hazardous chemicals.

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