At least 22 people killed after explosion near a chemical plant in northern China

  • An explosion and fire near a chemical factory left at least 22 people dead and more dozens of others injured on Wednesday in the region of northern China set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, authorities said.
  • A subsequent fire destroyed 50 vehicles, the official Xinhua news agency(新华社)reported, citing local government sources.

A blast from next to a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou (张家口) city in China’s northern Hebei province, Wednesday has left at least 22 people dead and injured dozens of others, local officials have said.

According to the Beijing News, on Wednesday morning a shop owner who was 2.6 kilometers away from the incident said the blast woke him up.

Local media suggests the incident occurred around 12:41 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Beijing time.

State media outlets shared video purporting to show the blast scene on Wednesday morning, showing towers of black smoke and sharp orange flames in the morning darkness.

Photos showed rows of burned-out cars and trucks lining the streets of Zhangjiakou.

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Nearby Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry was shut down, according to a Reuters report citing a woman who answered the phone at the plant.

A ChemChina spokesman, owner of Hebei Shenghua, confirmed to Reuters that the blast did not occur at Shenghua.

According to the company’s website, ChemChina now ranks 167th on the Fortune 500 top global companies, as the third biggest global producer of chemicals. The company has been on the list for eight consecutive years.

The incident brings an unwanted spotlight onto Zhangjiakou, a city some 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing.

The city which straddles inner Mongolia as well as Shanxi province accesses a popular and well restored section ofn the Great Wall.

Zhangjiakou was literally plucked from obscurity when Beijing claimed the city as its unexpected host of the 2020 Winter Olympic Games.

According to Zhangjiakou’s local propaganda department, the injured were taken to hospital for treatment following the accident

The charred and smoking remains of trucks and cars were scattered on a road as firefighters worked at the scene, according to photos posted on Twitter by state broadcaster CGTN.

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A probe is underway, according to the state broadcaster.

The little-known city of Zhangjiakou will host the Olympic alpine skiing events at the 2022 Winter Games, which Beijing is organising.

China has an unenviable history of both chemical accidents and stifled reporting of such accidents, which are often associated with cutting various corners.

An explosion in Sichuan killed 19 people in June this year, after the company le ant on illegal buildings that failed to pass regulated safety standards.

Remembering Tianjin

Tianjin China blastFeature China/Barcroft Media via GettyRescuers and machines clean up burnt vehicles at the site of Tianjin warehouse explosion on August 20, 2015 in Tianjin, China. The death toll from last week’s massive blasts in Tianjin rose to above 150, and 65 people remained missing, officials said.

In 2015, massive explosions tore through a chemical containment facility in Beijing’s sister port city of Tianjin, killing 173 people, possibly many more.

These kinds of industrial accidents place the Chinese Communist Party under extreme duress as the legitimacy of the regime is often closely linked to its social and corporate care.

At least 80 firefighters were killed in the blast which injured nearly 800 others and totally destroyed over 300 homes.

The explosion left a huge, meteor-shaped crater where the factory once stood.

The astonishingly powerful blast at the Tianjin factory also in Hebei flattened buildings and created a giant fireball that shot into the air as debris rained down on some 17,000 surrounding homes.

That incident alone cost at least $US1 billion in damage and triggered widespread anger at the perceived lack of transparency over the accident’s causes and its impact on the environment.

The official report into the Tianjin disaster found more than 120 people, local officials included, were responsible for the accident, which it suggested was caused by the illegal storage of 11,300 tonnes of hazardous chemicals.

Chinese state media reported that the son of a former local police chief was secretly a joint owner of the Tianjin warehouse and leveraged his official connections to secure licenses for the warehouse that flagrantly breached regulations prohibiting the storage of hazardous chemicals – including sodium cyanide in this case – near residential areas.

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