China: Deadly chemical plant explosion hits Zhangjiakou

An explosion at a chemical plant on Wednesday killed 22 people and injured 22 others in the city of Zhangjiakou, which is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Public anger has grown in China following several deadly industrial accidents ranging from chemical plant blasts to mining disasters over the past decade.

What we know so far:

  • The blast occurred at a loading dock operated by the Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry Co. Ltd.
  • It set 50 vehicles ablaze, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
  • The local government urged citizens to “not go to the site to watch,” saying it could disrupt emergency response efforts.
  • Police have yet to determine the cause of the blast.

Read more: Is Chinese propaganda infiltrating the German media?

‘Almost daily’

For years, China has been rocked by industrial accidents caused by loose enforcement of safety standards. In 2015, a massive explosion at a site in Tianjin killed more than 170 people. The blast was traced back to improperly stored chemicals.

Earlier this month, 52 people fell ill following a major chemical spill in Fujian province. The toxic chemical C9 leak occurred while workers were loading barrels onto a tanker.

With authorities wary of social unrest, Beijing has vowed to improve industrial safety standards and increase oversight. But environmentalists say little has changed and workers are still at risk.

“Tragic accidents occur on an almost daily basis,” said Greenpeace researcher Cheng Qian in a 2016 report. “The government must take urgent action to manage chemicals in a sound manner, provide a safety net for workers and citizens, and protect ecologically important areas across the country.”

Read more: Is China on course with ‘Made in China 2025’ amid trade row with US?

Every evening, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

ls/amp (Reuters, AP, AFP)