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Factory Explosions in Jiangsu

In March 2019, workplace safety issues came under the spotlight again in China. On 21 March, a deadly explosion occured at the Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Company, in Yancheng city, Jiangsu province, killing at least 64 people and injuring ten times as many. The explosion, as powerful as a 2.2 magnitude tremor, flattened the factory, destroyed 16 neighbouring plants, and rocked several nearby schools. Following the blast, police in Yancheng took its executives into custody, and officials relocated more than 4,000 workers and residents to safer areas, while ordering an inspection of all factories dealing with hazardous chemicals and demanding severe punishment for those found to have broken the rules. President Xi Jinping, who at the time of the explosion was visiting Italy, ordered an expeditious investigation into the incident and demanded that governments at all levels strengthen safety inspection procedures. Still, ten days later, on 31 March, a second explosion at metal-moulding plant in the city of Kunshan, also in Jiangsu province, claimed the lives of another seven victims. Chinese authorities have called for enhanced workplace safety for years, but large-scale industrial disasters remain prevalent in the country. The gravest incident in recent years occurred at a chemical storage warehouse in the port city of Tianjin in August 2015: on that occasion, massive explosions at the warehouse resulted not only in hundreds of casualties, but also in severe disruptions to industrial production and port operations. Other recent fatal accidents include the collapse of a power plant in Fengcheng, Jiangxi province, in November 2016; the explosion of a natural gas pipeline in Qinglong, Guizhou province, in June 2018; and the blast at a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, in November 2018. The recurrence of industrial tragedies, due largely to weak regulatory enforcement, underscores the daunting challenges in ensuring workplace safety faced by the Chinese government. NLiu

(Sources: Caixin; CCTV; China Labour Bulletin; NetEase; Reuters; South China Morning Post; Wall Street Journal)

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