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Blast kills 22 near China factory in Olympic city

Photo: AFP


An explosion and fire near a chemical factory left at least 22 people dead and 22 others injured on Wednesday in a northern China city that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, authorities said.

The charred and smoking remains of trucks and cars were scattered on a road as firefighters worked at the scene, according to images posted by state media on social media.

The incident near Hebei Shenghua Chemical Co. in Zhangjiakou, a city some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of Beijing, burned 38 trucks and 12 cars, the local propaganda department said on its Weibo social media account.

The side of a building was covered in soot in front of a row of burnt out trucks across the road, footage broadcast by CCTV showed.

The injured were taken to hospitals for treatment following the blast at 00:41 am, according to the propaganda department statement, which did not say whether the factory was affected by the blast or whether it took place on a road.

The explosion occurred at the entrance of the factory when a vehicle transporting dangerous chemicals blew up, igniting surrounding vehicles, according to The Paper, a news outlet which cited a staffer at the Zhangjiakou City Safety Production Supervision Administration.

"On-site search and rescue work and investigation of the cause of the accident are still under way," the propaganda department said.

Some Olympic skiing and snowboarding events will be held on the outskirts of Zhangjiakou during the 2022 Winter Games, which Beijing is organising.

The explosion occurred in the city's Qiaodong district. Snowboard and ski events will be held some 45 minutes away in Chongli.

Industrial, road accidents

Road and industrial accidents are common in China.

A blast at a chemical plant in southwest Sichuan province left 19 dead and 12 injured in July.

The company had undertaken illegal construction that had not passed safety checks, according to local authorities.

In 2015, giant chemical blasts in a container storage facility killed at least 165 people in the northern port city of Tianjin.

The explosions caused more than $1 billion in damage and sparked widespread anger at a perceived lack of transparency over the accident's causes and its environmental impact.

China has also also experienced its share of horrific road crashes, with traffic regulations often flouted or unenforced.

Two cars ploughed into crowds in two separate incidents in recent days: Five children were killed when a driver deliberately rammed into students crossing a road in northeast China last week and seven people died when another car hit people on a sidewalk in the southwest on Tuesday.

An out-of-control truck ploughed into a 31-car lineup in northwest Gansu province earlier this month, killing 15 people and injuring 44.

In November last year, a highway pile-up involving at least 30 cars killed 18 people in eastern Anhui province.

Photos: AFP