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Negligence Suspected Cause of Chemical Plant Blasts
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The improper treatment of a malfunctioning chemical mechanism has been blamed for the string of blasts at a chemical plant in Jilin City of northeast China's Jilin Province on Sunday afternoon, the chemical company said at an overnight news conference.


"Improper treatment of the problem at the P-102 tower of the workshop in the benzene plant caused the explosions and fire," deputy general manager of the company Zou Haifeng said.


"All pipelines and wires connected to the tower have been cut off," he said.


The blasts took place at a workshop at No. 101 Chemical Plant under the Jilin Petrochemical Company between 1:45 PM to 3:00 PM Sunday in Jilin City, some 100 km east of Changchun, capital of Jilin Province.


More than 20 of the 70 people injured are still in hospital for further observation. Six others are still missing. Two people who were seriously hurt are out of danger after emergency operations, according to local hospital sources.


More than 10,000 residents and students in a nearby university have been evacuated, local authorities said.


The municipal government has asked hotels and restaurants in the city to provide rooms for the evacuated people. Taxies were called on to help with the evacuation.


The fire caused by the blasts is under control but is yet to be put out completely, rescuers said.


Benzene is a clear, colorless, highly flammable and poisonous liquid, but burning breaks it down into water and carbon dioxide, according to Zhang Fenglin, vice president of the company-affiliated hospital.


(Xinhua News Agency November 14, 2005)

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