(Fixes typos in paragraphs 3, 4, 16)
By Fayen Wong
KUNSHAN, China Aug 2 China suffered its worst
industrial accident in a year on Saturday when an explosion
killed at least 68 people and injured more than 120 at a factory
in China that makes wheels for U.S. carmakers, including General
The blast in the wealthy eastern province of Jiangsu
occurred around 7:30 a.m. in Kunshan city, about an hour's drive
from Shanghai, after an explosion ripped through a workshop that
polishes wheel hubs.
A preliminary investigation suggested that the blast at
Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co Ltd. was triggered when a
flame was lit in a dust-filled room, the local government said
at a press conference, describing the incident as a serious
Several officials from the firm have since been detained,
the government said. State news agency Xinhua said five company
representatives were held by authorities.
Survivors with charred skin were seen being wheeled into
ambulances, as residents recalled hearing the explosion from two
kilometres away. At the site of the blast, television images
showed wrecked walls and heavy machinery that was hurled through
"We heard a really loud blast at about 7 a.m. this morning
so we rushed out of our dormitories," said Zhou Xu, a
26-year-old working at a plant across the site.
"First the ambulance came, then as the news surfaced in the
media, many families - especially the wives - rushed to the site
to see if their husbands were okay."
A security guard from an adjacent factory, who declined to
be named, said the impact from the explosion was so great that
it shattered the windows of his guard house, located about 500
metres away from the site of the blast.
Images online and on state television showed large plumes of
black smoke billowing from a white low-rise building. Many of
the injured, who appeared badly burnt in scorched clothing, were
shown lying on wooden pallets, waiting to be stretchered on to
trucks, public buses and ambulances.
Four emergency blood-donation centres were set up in the
city to assist casualties, some of whom will be taken to
Shanghai and other nearby cities for treatment later on
Saturday, state television said.
Urged by President Xi Jinping to spare no efforts in the
rescue works, Kunshan's government said it was bringing in
doctors from Shanghai and other regions.
"In my 20 years of work, I've never seen so many patients
with burns on over 80 percent of their bodies," a senior unnamed
doctor was quoted as saying on the Weibo microblog account of
The doctor warned that the eventual death toll could be
POOR SAFETY RECORD
China, the world's second-largest economy, has a poor record
on workplace safety. Workers are often poorly trained or
ill-equipped to protect themselves from industrial accidents.
By early afternoon in Kunshan, the police had cordoned off
the ageing factory and blocked media access to the local
Authorities had also cleaned up the factory's exterior, and
a crowd of bystanders and a row of fire-trucks parked in the
compound were the only outward signs of the calamity that had
occurred hours earlier.
Kunshan Zhongrong could not be reached for a comment. Its
website said the firm is wholly owned by an unidentified foreign
investor, employs 450 workers and counts General Motors
and other U.S. companies as clients.
The Kunshan government said 264 workers were at the site
when the explosion struck, and 44 died immediately. Xinhua cited
officials say saying that the number of injured totalled 187.
"Of course, the foreign owner of the company will shoulder
the responsibility," said Duan Shenyi, a user of China's
microblog Weibo said on Saturday. "But because we lack a
workers' union, we do not have enough supervision of companies."
A fire at a poultry slaughterhouse in the northeast province
of Jilin in June 2013 killed 120 people. The blaze was blamed on
poor management, lack of government oversight and locked or
(Additional reporting by Aly Sung in KUNSHAN and Judy Hua in
BEIJING; Writing by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Matt Driskill and