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Chemical plant blaze blamed on illegal work, unlicensed workers

By Zha Minjie   (Shanghai Daily)

09:39, June 26, 2013

THE chemical plant, which caught fire on Monday and injured six people in Jinshan District, was running an illegal operation and the people involved in the business did not have the licenses to handle chemical goods.

Workers at the Shanghai Shengying Petrochemical Co manually put chemical materials into a reactor kettle that exploded and caused fire in the factory.

It was not only illegal but was not even experimented before, the Shanghai Work Safety Administration said.

They did not take any protective measures either, officials said.

Authorities have come under increasing pressure and faced heavy criticisms following two fires in two days at chemical plants in the city. The city is being blamed for lax supervision and management.

"Ignoring work safety in chemical industry is no different from terror acts," said Qi Jun, the director of the work safety administration. "It's like a timebomb."

The fire at the plant, located in a chemical industrial zone, was kept under "controlled" burning until yesterday to avoid potential toxic substance from being emitted out.

Investigators will move in after it dies out to check the scene of fire, said Qi.

"The environment monitoring around the plant did not show any abnormality so far," said Sun Yinliang, the director with the Jinshan District's Work Safety Administration.

"We were lucky to have heavy rain soon after the fire that cleaned the air."

Sun said 10 people have been taken in for questioning by the authorities.

Zheng Yinghao, the general manager of the company, was also in the hospital. Among the six injured, five were said to be in stable condition.

Authorities said the company, which has 39 employees, was producing antistatic agent for another petrochemical company in neighboring Jiangsu Province.

The Jiangsu company rejected the first batch of products sent by Shanghai Shengying and sent three workers to Jinshan to help them deliver the correct product.

But they put the chemicals straight into the reactor kettle, without first trying it out. The kettle exploded under high pressure, authorities said.

The reactor was stuffed with nitric acid, epoxyethane among others.

And instead of using manual labor, it should have been injected into the reactor.

Three Shengying and three Jiangsu workers suffered severe burns in the fire.

One operator fled as the kettle wobbled but others were not able to leave before the blast.

"No protection, no emergency handling process," an angry Qi said after reaching the scene of the incident.

On Sunday, a malfunctioning reactor led to a fire in a petrochemical workshop in Pudong. But in this case, workers at the plant were able to take the necessary steps and avoid a big blaze and heavy injuries. No one was injured as workers and residents were evacuated in time.

The city will launch a three-month campaign next month to warn against the potential hazards from local chemical and dangerous goods operators.

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