The death toll in the powerful explosion at a chemical plant in China climbed to 47 on Friday with President Xi Jinping demanding all-out efforts to carry out search and rescue operations.
The blast occurred after a fire in a fertilizer factory in a chemical industrial park in Yancheng, Jiangsu province on Thursday, according to the government of Xiangshui county.
Forty Seven people have been killed and a further 90 seriously injured, reported state-run China Daily.
President Xi, also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, demanded all-out efforts to search and rescue victims.
Xi, who is on his five-day tour of Europe, said that all-out efforts must be made to search those trapped, and the injured must be timely treated and relief work must be well carried out to maintain social stability.
Meanwhile, environment monitoring and early warning should be strengthened to prevent environmental pollution as well as secondary disasters, he said.
The explosion affected 16 surrounding enterprises. Open fire has been put out and air pollution indexes are within the allowed range.
Xi ordered that the cause of the accident must be identified as early as possible and that authoritative information should be timely released.
The Ministry of Emergency Management said 88 people have been rescued from the site of the incident.
Eye-witnesses said several workers were trapped after buildings were knocked down by the shockwave stated to be a mild tremor caused by the blast which took place in a pesticide plant. The blast also shattered windows of nearby residential houses.
The fire fighter brigade of Jiangsu has mobilised 176 fire trucks with 928 personnel to join the rescue mission, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.
A professor of applied chemistry at Beijing University of Chemical Technology, in an interview with CCTV, said the leak of toxic chemicals might have affected the people and environment in the surrounding areas.
According to the city’s environmental protection authority, the explosion had a negative influence on the air quality in the chemical park and its surrounding areas within a 500-meter radius, but the strong winds are expected to lift the heavy smoke.
No residents live in the chemical park, while all people in nearby areas have been evacuated, officials said.
Yancheng’s education department said school students were among those injured in the explosion. Online maps of the area indicate that there are at least 10 schools close to the site.
Beijing Youth Daily reported that the blast was caused by benzene and occurred in a production area of the plant.
Production at other plants in the area were not affected, the report said.
A witness surnamed Xie living about 1.5-km from the plant told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that all her windows were shattered by the blast.
Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Company, which owns the plant, was established in 2007. Its business includes the manufacture of chemical products such as hydroxybenzoic acid.