Canadian Manufacturing

Toxic fire burns at Chinese chemical plant

This is the second explosion in 20 months to hit the controversial factory in Zhangzhou that makes the highly toxic chemical paraxylene



BEIJING—Six people were hospitalized and hundreds of firefighters deployed to fight a hydrocarbon fire following an explosion at a plant in southern China that produces the toxic chemical paraxylene, officials said April 7.

Authorities said there were no leaks from the plant’s three tanks of burning hydrocarbon liquids and no signs of contamination of the environment following the blast at Goure PX Plant in Zhangzhou, Fujian province—the second explosion to hit the factory in 20 months.

Concerns over the safety of plants that make paraxylene, or PX, a chemical used for producing fibers and plastics, have prompted several protests in China in recent years. Exposure to the chemical can cause eye, nose and throat irritation.

Zhangzhou Deputy Mayor Zhang Yiteng told reporters that one person was injured at the blast site and five hurt by broken glass. The official Xinhua news agency said strong tremors were felt up to 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.

Authorities deployed 177 fire trucks and 829 firefighters to fight the blaze and all nearby residents were evacuated, Zhang said. The fire was under control, and authorities were monitoring the environment for any contamination, Zhang said.

The plant attracted protests even before it was built. It was slated for the densely populated city of Xiamen in Fujian, but protests in 2007 by residents concerned about potential health hazards succeeded in getting it moved to a less populated area in Zhangzhou.

Several other cities around China have seen similar protests.

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