Explosions rock Chinese chemical plant; no deaths reported, but six people missing

Six people were missing and dozens hospitalized after explosions rocked a chemical plant in northeastern China, forcing the evacuation of more than 10,000 others, news reports said Monday. No deaths were reported.

The blasts occurred Sunday afternoon at the No. 101 Chemical Plant in the city of Jilin, shattering windows up to 200 meters (700 feet) away, newspapers and the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The explosion was blamed on improper handling of a problem in a tower that processed benzene, a highly flammable liquid, Xinhua said, citing Zou Haifeng, the company's deputy general manager.

Xinhua said the fire caused by the blast was brought under control but was still burning in some places.

Jilin is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the major industrial city of Changchun, the capital of Jilin province.

State television on Sunday evening showed black smoke billowing into the sky. Newspaper photos on Monday showed flames from the disaster lighting up the night sky. Others showed bandaged employees of the plant lying in hospital beds.

"More than 10,000 residents have evacuated for fear of further explosions and pollution by chemical matters," Xinhua said.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Jilin Chemical Industry Co. Hospital, under the main petroleum company, said about 40 to 50 people were receiving treatment. She hung up when asked for details.

A man who answered the telephone at the No. 101 plant and refused to give his name said he didn't know if any employees were in the facility at the time of the explosions.

At the Jilin Central Hospital, a doctor in the emergency department said "several people with minor injuries" were brought in.

They appeared to have been outside the plant and were injured by glass shards, said the doctor, who would not give his name, AP reported. V.A.

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