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Explosion rocks industrial area in east China

HONG KONG – At a blast on Thursday afternoon in a chemical plant in East China, at least six people were killed, the local government said.

The explosion occurred in Xiangshui District, Jiangsu Province. The China Earthquake Administration reported a 2.2 magnitude earthquake at 14:48. It was assumed that this was caused by the explosion.

At least 30 people were seriously injured in the explosion at Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co., Yancheng government, which oversees the Xiangshui District, said in a statement. Videos circulated online showed people who seemed to have been cut by glass and other debris.

The plant mainly produces pesticides according to online lists. The National Health and Safety Authority listed 13 safety issues at the factory following an inspection last year, including a lack of safety training in management.

Jiangsu is by far the Chinese province with the largest production of agrochemicals. Last year, it was also the focus of controversy over how China should regulate chemical production.

Jiangsu Province, with support from Beijing, has urged that every chemical plant should reduce its pollution by a significant percentage previous levels. This would allow some small, extremely polluted local companies to install more modern equipment. However, it tends to penalize multinational corporations using identical, relatively clean factories around the world and would incur very high investment costs to further reduce their emissions.

Environmentalists and large corporations tend to favor the setting of low levels of maximum pollution that no factory may exceed. However, this approach could significantly penalize older factories on the ground.

China has experienced a series of major explosions in chemical plants in recent years. Destruction in the northeastern city of Tianjin in 2013 killed 173 people, a disaster due to weak regulations and accidental management of explosives.

An explosion near a chemical plant in Hebei Province killed at least 23 people last year.

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