An explosion and fire near a chemical factory left at least 22 people dead and more dozens of others injured in the region of northern China set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, authorities said.
A subsequent fire destroyed 50 vehicles.
A blast next to a chemical plant in Zhangjiakou city in China’s northern Hebei province, has left at least 22 people dead and injured dozens of others.
According to the Beijing News, a shop owner who was 2.6 kilometers away from the incident said the blast woke him up. Local media suggests the incident occurred around 12:41 a.m, Beijing time. State media outlets shared video purporting to show the blast scene showing towers of black smoke and sharp orange flames in the morning darkness. Photos showed rows of burned-out cars and trucks lining the streets of Zhangjiakou.
Nearby Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry was shut down, according to a Reuters report citing a woman who answered the phone at the plant. A ChemChina spokesman, owner of Hebei Shenghua, confirmed to Reuters that the blast did not occur at Shenghua. According to the company’s website, ChemChina now ranks 167th on the Fortune 500 top global companies, as the third biggest global producer of chemicals.
The company has been on the list for eight consecutive years. The incident brings an unwanted spotlight onto Zhangjiakou, a city some 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing. The city which straddles inner Mongolia as well as Shanxi province accesses a popular and well restored section ofn the Great Wall. Zhangjiakou was literally plucked from obscurity when Beijing claimed the city as its unexpected host of the 2020 Winter Olympic Games. According to Zhangjiakou’s local propaganda department, the injured were taken to hospital for treatment following the accident.
The charred and smoking remains of trucks and cars were scattered on a road as firefighters worked at the scene, according to photos posted on Twitter by state broadcaster CGTN. A probe is underway, according to the state broadcaster.
The little-known city of Zhangjiakou will host the Olympic alpine skiing events at the 2022 Winter Games, which Beijing is organizing. China has an unenviable history of both chemical accidents and stifled reporting of such accidents, which are often associated with cutting various corners.