Rescue workers and technicians are preparing to contain the bursting gas well early Friday morning to prevent further casualties in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
Rescue workers in red uniform, dozens of fire trucks and emergency equipment have already stood by as local police said reporters and other personnel would be denied access to the scene beginning 7:00 a.m. Friday.
Authorities and technicians planned to carry out the blowout-containing program at about 10:00 a.m. Friday after the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), who operates the gas field, had worked out a detailed program.
"We will see whether we can curb the natural gas from further escaping three hours after the operation," said Qian Zhijia, deputy head of Chuandongbei gas field where the accident occurred.
Gas field blowout kills 191in SW China, 290-odd hospitalized
The tragedy took place at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday and killed at least 191 people, when a well blew out suddenly and released a high concentration of natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen at Chuandongbei gas field in Kaixian County, some 337 kilometers northeast of Chongqing.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao had sent their instructions on Thursday to local governments, urging relevant departments go all out to rescue victims, prevent poisonous gas from spreading further and reduce casualties.
Some 600 soldiers, armed police and fire fighters were mobilized to search for any survivors in the areas near the gas field.
It is feared that the number of casualties might rise, as 20 special teams continue combing the nearby areas for survivors and identifying casualties.
Gas field blowout kills 191in SW China, 290 hospitalized
More than 41,000 people have been evacuated from areas within a radius of five km in the mountainous area around the gas field.
Some 290 people, mostly children, were hospitalized and four of them were still in critical condition while some 3,000 local people were reported to have suffered sulfurated hydrogen-caused symptoms like slight conjunctivitis and colds, according to local health bureau.
"We have admitted 138 patients poisoned by the toxic gas," said a doctor with the internal medicine department at Kaixian County People's Hospital.
"They have received timely and effective treatment and their conditions remain stable," the doctor said. "We are mainly using the antidotes medicine on the patients."
A total of 28 villages were hit by the gas blowout as local authorities had set up 15 shelter centers in schools and canteens for those evacuated.
"The county government has assembled quilts, biscuits and instant noodles for the victims," said She Mingzhe, Communist Party Secretary of Kaixian County.
In another development, CNPC technicians inflamed the blowout gas to curb further gas spread Thursday afternoon as the CNPC and local authorities tried to contain the burst, a spokesman for the CNPC told Xinhua.
"All citizens at our town had been evacuated," said an official at a rescue command office some one km from the gas blast scene.
Electricity supply to Gaoqiao Town, the hardest-hit area, had been cut off as hundreds of rescue workers rushed back and forth to arrange rescue materials.
"We have to evacuate immediately once our current gas density meters send out warning," a policeman told Xinhua at the scene.
"Though the gas has been ignited at the field, the gas spreading to the surrounding areas might be toxic to human at certain density," he said.
An investigation team dispatched by the State Administration of Work Safety had arrived at the blowout site at around 7:10 p.m. Thursday.
The gas field with a storage capacity of 50 to 60 billion tons of natural gas blew out suddenly and released a high concentration of natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen about 30 meters high, which quickly spread to nearby villages Tuesday night.
Earlier reports said the operations were going normally before the accident and gas suddenly exploded from the side of the drill when it went through the well 208 meters from the drill site.
The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation.
290-strong gas poisoned people hospitalized
More than 290 villagers have been hospitalized after they were poisoned after a gas field blowout that killed at least 191 people in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, local doctors and officials said.
Local health bureau officials said most of those poisoned people were children and four of them were still in critical condition.
More than 3,000 local people were reported to have suffered sulfurated hydrogen-caused symptoms like slight conjunctivitis and colds which local medical experts said would not jeopardize their health.
The tragedy occurred at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday, when a well blew out suddenly and released a high concentration of natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen at Chuandongbei gas field in Kaixian County, some 337 kilometers northeast of Chongqing.
The gas field was operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).
All the poisoned patients were rushed to Kaixian County People's Hospital, the county's largest hospital, and other township hospitals.
"We have received 138 patients poisoned by the toxic gas," said a doctor with the internal medicine department at Kaixian County People's Hospital.
"We are mainly using the antidotes medicine on the patients," he said.
"They have received timely and effective treatment and their conditions remain stable," the doctor said.
More than 41,000 people living in areas within a radius of five km in the mountainous area around the gas field after the gas blowout, which has also killed an unknown large number of poultry, cattle in the areas, have been moved elsewhere.
Health ministry shows concern
China's Ministry of Health has shown great concern over the situation following a disastrous gas blowout in southwest China, which has caused at least 193 deaths and forced tens of thousands of local residents to flee to safer areas.
A ministry spokesman told Xinhua reporters this in an exclusive interview Thursday.
Huang Jiefu, a deputy minister of health, has arrived at the disaster site in Kaixian County, Chongqing Municipality, to monitor the situation on the spot, while the ministry plans to send a team of experts to join hands with local medical workers in the rescue efforts, according to the spokesman.
The fatal accident occurred in a gas field operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation, at 10:00 pm Tuesday, when awell blowout suddenly released a high concentration of natural gas and sulfurated hydrogen.
Maximum rescue efforts urged
Chinese leaders Thursday called for unreserved efforts in searching and rescuing victims of a gas field blowout in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Huang Ju said in their instructions on Thursday that relevant departments should go all out to rescue victims, prevent poisonous gas from spreading further and reduce casualty.
The leaders also called for effective efforts in evacuating local residents and making proper arrangements for their life.
A gas well burst Tuesday night in Kaixian County, Chongqing, and released a high concentration of natural gas and sulfureted hydrogen, killing and poisoning many people.
By 5:30 p.m. Thursday, death toll of the tragedy has risen to 163.
A work team headed by State Councilor Hua Jianmin has rushed tothe site Thursday afternoon.