t least 78 people have died and another 604 are seriously injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in Xiangshui County, Jiangsu Province. Hundreds of others were injured by the explosion at Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Plant on the afternoon of March 21.
Local residents heard a deafening sound as the windows and doors of buildings up to three kilometers away blew out, and flames and a column of smoke came out of the blast site.
Over 900 firefighters battled the blaze overnight, which was not extinguished until 7 am the next day. A dispatch operator told media the source of the explosion was equipment loaded with benzene.
Environmental authorities reported that the explosion has cause severe localized air pollution and water supplies were not safe for human consumption. Some 3,000 people working or living in the affected area, 300 kilometers north of Shanghai, have been evacuated and schools and kindergartens were closed.
The force of the blast registered on earthquake monitors. While investigators have not confirmed the exact cause of the explosion, an insider revealed on March 24 that the source may have been a waste warehouse where inflammable chemicals were stored.