Thirty-two workers were confirmed dead and six others injured on Wednesday after molten metal spewed through a steel plant in northeast China's Liaoning Province, local work safety authorities said.
Grief-stricken families cry while waiting outside Qinghe Special Steel Corporation.
The accident occurred at 7:45 AM in a workshop in Qinghe Special Steel Corporation, in Tieling City, when a steel ladle -- used for pouring molten steel -- suddenly sheared off from the iron rail linking it to the blast furnace.
The ladle, two meters in diameter and containing 30 tons of liquid, was moving into pouring position above a worktable when it fell, throwing white-hot molten metal at around 1,500 degrees Celsius into a room where workers had gathered as they changed shifts. The liquid metal engulfed the room, bursting through the door and windows and burying the workers.
Work safety officials who rushed to the site said the bodies of 32 workers had been recovered and the six injured had been taken to hospital.
One of the injured was in a critical condition and the others were stable condition, but were still in danger catching infections through their burns, said doctors.
As the bodies were burned beyond recognition, DNA technology would be used for identification, said officials.
The families of the victims would receive at least 200,000 yuan (US$26,000) each in compensation, the officials said.
The cause of the accident is being investigated. The plant owner and three employees in charge of work safety have been arrested.
The accident comes in a black week in China's industrial safety record.
At least 47 miners are still trapped below ground in Chinese coal pits after three separate accidents, in Heilongjiang, Henan and Hunan provinces respectively, happened all on Monday.
The privately-run mines had no valid license and certificates, but were operating illegally. Since the accidents, local governments have closed dozens of illegal coal mines.
In the first two months of this year, coal mine accidents alone killed 357 people, figures from the State Administration of Work Safety show.
The government has vowed to avoid further mining accidents, setting a goal of reducing the death rate to 2.1 for every one million tons of coal produced by 2010, down from 2.81 in 2005. The 2005 rate was 70 times worse than the United States and seven times than Russia and India.
(Xinhua News Agency April 19, 2007)