China: chemical plant blast kills one; nearby schools close on pollution fears

A chemical plant explosion in southwest China killed one worker and may have caused the country's second release of toxic benzene in the past two weeks, state media said Friday. Nearby schools closed and thousands of people were evacuated, the reports said.

The explosion Thursday in the southwestern Chongqing region occurred as China scrambled to control a massive chemical spill from another plant hundreds of kilometers (miles) to the northeast, in Harbin, where water supply was cut off to 3.8 million people.

Thursday's incident was in the Chongqing county of Dianjiang, where a blast at the Yingte Chemical Company killed one worker, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Excess hydrogen peroxide may have caused the explosion, the agency said.

Nearby schools closed, and about 6,000 people were evacuated, the Beijing Daily Messenger newspaper said in a separate report. Local residents were warned not to drink or use water from a nearby river because it may have been polluted with benzene from the factory, the reports said.

The disaster highlights the lurking dangers behind China's breakneck economic growth and the precarious state of its water supplies, reported AP. P.T.

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