Dongying Chemical Plant Explosion
Details of an explosion that destroyed an adhesivesplant in eastern China, including a mounting deathtoll, are only slowly emerging despite pledges forgreater transparency made in the wake of last month’s Tianjin disaster.
The local government of Dongying in Shandong province has gradually raised the number killedto 13 after an initial assessment of one when a single blast destroyed the Binyuan Chemicalsplant on August 31. “The bodies were blown to pieces, making the investigation difficult,” it saidin an explanation that was deleted from the Dongying government website after being pickedup by Chinese media.
The explosion comes less than a month after the Tianjin blast killed at least 162 people anddestroyed thousands of apartments, unsold cars and other facilities. Insurance claims couldreach $3.3bn, making it one of Asia’s most expensive man-made disasters for insurers,according to risk and reinsurance specialists Guy Carpenter.
Despite the high profile of the Tianjin explosions — mobile phone videos of the blasts went viralworldwide on social media and journalists flocked from Beijing — and the fact dozens offirefighters did not return that night, the city government took days to raise the casualty count.
Similarities in the two cases, including accusations that explosive chemicals were improperlystored, may explain Dongying authorities’ desire to avoid scrutiny over the accident. It alsooccurred shortly before a Beijing military parade to mark the end of the second world war.Chinese authorities are usually under orders to play down any incidents that might mar such anevent.
Local authorities initially attributed the blast to the explosion of a benzene tank stored tooclose to the factory.
“Because the materials they produce are highly flammable, it’s very likely that fire first brokeout in the storage house,” said a Chinese oil industry analyst who declined to be identifieddue to the potential sensitivity of the case. “But we noticed that the benzene tank was notmentioned in lots of state media reports, and I know why that is. Benzene is highly poisonous,and it will affect water and air nearby. 500 cubic meters is not a small amount.”
The Lijin government attracted criticism from state media over its weekend statement, whichsaid that some of the dead had been cremated and that “the emotions of their relatives arestable”.
“How can emotions be stable when bodies are blown to pieces?” Xinhua asked, in an article onits mobile platform that was also subsequently deleted.
The city of Dongying, at the mouth of the Yellow River, is dominated by Sinopec, the nation’ssecond-largest state-owned oil company, which operates the Shengli oilfield there. In recentyears, as output from the field has declined, the local government has set up petrochemicalcomplexes to attract downstream investors.
Binyuan Chemicals is owned by a local chemicals entrepreneur, Li Peixiang. He also ownsDongying Luyuan Sci-Tech and Trade Co, which makes and trades chemicals used in frackingand oil drilling, a Financial Times search of online records shows. Dongying Luyuan is ashareholder in at least one company that is a services contractor to Sinopec and is a supplierto both Sinopec and state-owned PetroChina, according to information it posted online.
Sinopec said it had no stake in the company. Binyuan and Luyuan declined to comment.