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Deadly Plant Explosion in China

Fourteen people were killed in an accident at a melamine plant in Shandong province.

by Jean-François Tremblay
November 28, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 48

An explosion at a melamine production facility in eastern China killed 14 workers on Nov. 19.

The accident took place at Liaherd Chemical, a producer of industrial chemicals based in Xintai, in Shandong province. The company, listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange since 2008, also goes by the name of Lianhe Chemical.

At the time of the explosion, workers were inspecting a cooling unit at the melamine plant, the company said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The blast immediately killed four workers; 10 others later died at the hospital. Five employees were injured.

Formed in 2003, Liaherd also produces ammonia, urea, and phthalic anhydride. The 30,000-metric-ton-per-year melamine plant started production in May, the company said. Liaherd is one of China’s many producers of melamine, a urea derivative used to make thermoset polymers that go into dishware and other household goods.

Liaherd and government investigators are working together to determine the cause of the accident. In the meantime, all production at the site has been halted.

China generally has a poor industrial safety record. Accidents at chemical plants have killed many people. In 2005, a huge explosion at a PetroChina plant in Jilin in northeast China killed five people and released nitrobenzene into the Songhua River, which flows into Russia. In July 2006, a blast at a fluorobenzene plant in Linhai, in Jiangsu province, killed 22 people.


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