BEIJING: An explosion and fire near a chemical factory left at least 22 people dead and 22 others injured on Wednesday in a northern China city that will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, authorities said.
The charred and smoking remains of trucks and cars were scattered on a road as firefighters worked at the scene, according to images posted by state media on social media.
The incident near Hebei Shenghua Chemical Co. in Zhangjiakou, a city some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of Beijing, burned 38 trucks and 12 cars, the local propaganda department said on its Weibo social media account.
The side of a building was covered in soot in front of a row of burnt out trucks across the road, footage broadcast by CCTV showed.
The injured were taken to hospitals for treatment following the blast at 00:41 am, according to the propaganda department statement, which did not say whether the factory was affected by the blast or whether it took place on a road.
The explosion occurred at the entrance of the factory when a vehicle transporting dangerous chemicals blew up, igniting surrounding vehicles, according to The Paper, a news outlet which cited a staffer at the Zhangjiakou City Safety Production Supervision Administration.
“On-site search and rescue work and investigation of the cause of the accident are still under way,” the propaganda department said.
Some Olympic skiing and snowboarding events will be held on the outskirts of Zhangjiakou during the 2022 Winter Games, which Beijing is organising.
The explosion occurred in the city’s Qiaodong district. Snowboard and ski events will be held some 45 minutes away in Chongli.
A blast at a chemical plant in southwest Sichuan province left 19 dead and 12 injured in July. The company had undertaken illegal construction that had not passed safety checks, according to local authorities.
In 2015, giant chemical blasts in a container storage facility killed at least 165 people in the northern port city of Tianjin.
The explosions caused more than $1 billion in damage and sparked widespread anger at a perceived lack of transparency over the accident’s causes and its environmental impact.