Death toll rises to 19 in east China tank truck blast

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The death toll from a Saturday tank truck blast in east China's Zhejiang Province rose to 19, local authorities said Sunday.

A total of 172 injured people, including 24 seriously injured, were receiving medical treatment in hospitals, according to a press conference.

The accident occurred at around 4:40 p.m. Saturday when a tank truck loaded with liquified petroleum gas exploded near the Liangshan Village in Daxi Town under the city of Wenling on a section of the Shenyang-Haikou Expressway.

A second blast soon followed. The explosions caused the collapse of nearby residential houses and factory workshops.

"I was standing at the window when the second blast happened. Fortunately, there was a curtain to protect me, otherwise the glass would have cut my face," said Lu Zhenghui, whose house was several hundred meters away from the explosion site.

Lu said as he picked up his daughter and ran downstairs, he saw broken glass, shattered aluminum doors and windows scattered along the way.

Xinhua reporters at the site saw many collapsed houses and factories. Nearby windows were shattered; roadside cars were warped while some were still smoking, filling the air with a pungent smell.

The First People's Hospital of Wenling has admitted 79 injured people, including 17 who were critically wounded. Cai Haijun, deputy head of the hospital, said those in critical condition were mainly suffering from explosion injuries and extensive burns.

So far, more than 2,660 rescuers, 151 rescue vehicles and over 30 large rescue machinery and equipment had been sent to the site for rescue, said Zhu Minglian, vice mayor of Wenling, at the press conference.

More than 630 medical workers were treating the injured, said Zhu.

Zhou Pengjian, one local firefighter, said many rescuers suffered dehydration and heatstroke as they braved high temperatures to pull residents out of the debris.

Local environmental protection authorities carried out real-time monitoring of the air and water around the accident site. No obvious pollution had been found so far, said Zhu.

Rescue and search efforts are underway. The cause of the accident is under further investigation. 

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