Issue Date: May 19, 2008
Earthquake Halts Chemical Output
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hammered China on May 12 also wreaked havoc on the chemical industry in the southwest province of Sichuan. However, the extent of the damage is still unclear.
The deadly quake's epicenter was in Wenchuan county, about 100 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Chengdu. The cities of Dujiangyan, Shifang, and Deyang, all located 30 to 50 miles northwest of Chengdu, are home to a number of chemical production facilities.
China's official Xinhua news agency reports that two unidentified chemical plants collapsed and that 80 metric tons of ammonia leaked in the village of Yinghua near Shifang. The leak forced the evacuation of 6,000 people. The State Administration of Work Safety ordered chemical plants in the area to stop production and to inspect their facilities.
Julie Zhao, a saleswoman in the Henan office of the fertilizer producer Shifang Anda Chemicals, tells C&EN that her company's production facilities in Shifang are mostly intact. But she adds that because of an interruption in phone service with Shifang, she still has little information.
Several fertilizer producers are based in Shifang because of nearby phosphate mines. Isaac Zhao, a Beijing-based consultant with the fertilizer market consulting firm British Sulphur, says he does not yet have a clear idea of the damage the industry suffered. "The people there are focusing on the rescue efforts. I feel it's impolite at this point to call about their production facilities," he says.
Many buildings in the city of Dujiangyan collapsed, including a junior high school under which hundreds of students were either trapped or crushed. Speaking from an airport while on her way back to Chengdu, Gao Ming, a sales manager with the natural fruit extracts producer Chengdu Superman, tells C&EN that her company's facilities in Dujiangyan have not been seriously affected.
Damage was relatively light in Chengdu. The contract research company Shanghai ChemExplorer says that the chemistry lab it operates in the city is in good shape.
Foreign chemical companies appear to have escaped the quake unscathed. For instance, DuPont, which has a performance coatings plant in Chengdu, says that its employees are safe and its plant is intact.
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