Chemical plant blast raises concerns

CNC report from Fujian
Added On August 7, 2013

An explosion last week at a chemical plant in east China's Fujian Province caused just minor injuries in the surrounding area, but it's raised public concerns about the safety of facilities producing paraxylene, a key component in things like plastic bottles.

A flash fire followed by an explosion broke out at a cracked hydrogen pipeline at a paraxylene plant in Gulei city on July 30.

The blast injured several residents in nearby Xingzai Village, and damaged factory buildings and houses.

Local authorities say the accident caused no chemical leaks or pollution.

However, residents are worried about security and environmental risks.

"My leg was hit when part of the roof collapsed. I saw flames shooting high into the air, making horrible noise. My wife was also slightly injured."

Although the factory management tried to limit the blast impact, Lin, as well as his fellow villagers, can hardly feel relieved.

"If such things happen again, it must be very dangerous for our village."

Paraxylene, or PX, is a chemical used to make fabrics and plastic bottles.

Recently, there has been a heated discussion about the safety of PX plants.

The Gulei plant was forced to move from Xiamen, a major city in the same province, amid rising public concerns.

Analysts say the PX industry is necessary, but safety measures might be tightened. They also urge authorities to provide the public with more transparent information.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LIN BOQIANG, Professor, Xiamen University:
"The government needs to take three measures. Firstly, it must improve related laws and regulations, especially on safety and environmental protection. There must be a relatively high threshold for enterprises to run such plants. Secondly, the government must step up supervision. Lastly, penalty or punishment for violations shall be very high so that enterprises have to take extra caution. This is necessary for the safe and sustainable development of the PX industry in China."

The expert also calls on the public not to panic about the PX industry.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LIN BOQIANG, Professor, Xiamen University:
"Firstly, information must be transparent. With more information available, the public will have less misunderstanding. This is the premise. The government and enterprises should inform the public of the safety measures as well as details in case of an accident. Communication is also important. Secondly, the government and enterprises should tell the public what benefits the PX industry will bring them."

Investigation into the plant blast is still underway.