On Sunday Jun 13th, local officials in Hubei reported a gas line explosion. The explosion ripped through a residential compound in central China’s Hubei province. As a result of the explosion, at least 12 people died and around 140 others were injured.
According to a statement from the Disaster Management Bureau in the city of Shiyan, rescue efforts are still ongoing. However, it remains unclear how many people may still be trapped under the debris.
The statement said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the blast, which occurred around 6.30am.
According to a statement on the city’s official website, 138 people had to be sent to hospital by responders. A further 37 people were in a critical state.
Video footages by witnesses showed rescue workers carrying shocked survivors on stretchers. Also, several buildings had been reduced to rubble. Beijing News verified the video footages.
An eyewitness told state-run Global Times that one of the city’s vegetable markets was caught in the blast. It was filled with shoppers and local residents eating breakfast in the early morning.
The newspaper was told by an owner of a small restaurant near the explosion site, “I heard a loud bang and immediately ducked under the table, thinking it was an earthquake.”
Blast causes extensive damage
Footage showing buildings with charred walls and shattered windows was aired by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Rescuers are seen using shovels and gloved hands to clear the debris to search for survivors.
Also, CCTV footage showed people walking along a street filled with debris from damaged buildings on either side.
There were images showing rescue crews climbing over broken concrete slabs to get to trapped victims inside the buildings.
Source of the blast
A two-storey building that earlier housed a vehicle frame manufacturer is the source of the blast.
Leaking gas pipeline
The gas pipeline inside the two-storey building had fallen into disrepair after the factory was moved last year. This is according to what local media was told by several survivors.
A survivor who runs a stall in the market told local website Health Times “In March, workers from the gas company came and asked whether I got a smell of gas. After asking around (with) people they just left.”
The city government said surrounding buildings may have been damaged by the blast. As such, around 900 residents in the area have been evacuated.
There are nearly 2,000 rescue workers deployed on the site, to search for survivors.
Afterwards, second but smaller blast damaged a fire truck and injured a firefighter, based on images verified by Health Times.
Soon after, helicopters arrived and airlifted the severely injured survivors to bigger hospitals.
As local hospitals put out a call for blood donors, long lines of volunteers lined up outside blood banks.
Also, a team was dispatched by the Ministry of Emergency Management to assist with the rescue operation.
President Xi issues statement
A statement with two important points was issued by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Firstly, it urges local officials to learn “profound lessons from the incident”. Secondly, it states local officials should increase their efforts to prevent such incidents in future.
President Xi’s statement said, “All regions and relevant departments must draw lessons from one another. Investigate various safety hazards and prevent major emergencies.”
As a result of weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcing them, industrial accidents are common in China.
A separate explosion happened just a day earlier in the southwestern city of Guiyang. The cause of the explosion was toxic methyl formate leaking from a chemical handling facility in the region. Eight people died and three others were left injured as a result of the explosion.
In fact, a massive explosion in the port city of Tianjin in 2015 was among the worst accidents in China. The chemical warehouse explosion claimed 173 lives. Most of the dead were police officers and firefighters. Unsafe storage of volatile materials and illegal construction are believed to be the reasons for the blast.
14th June 2021 23:00
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