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Blast rocks Chinese port city, two dead

Blast rocks Chinese port city, two dead
November 26, 2017

BEIJING (AFP) A powerful explosion hit China's major port city of Ningbo on Sunday, killing at least two people, injuring more than a dozen and wrecking buildings, authorities said.

Cars were twisted and mangled by the force of the blast, a plume of grey smoke rose in the sky and debris was scattered for dozens of metres. But there was no official word on its cause.

The Ningbo government said on a social media account that the blast occurred in a "vacant lot".

Local authorities said two people died, two were seriously injured and an unidentified number were being treated for lesser injuries in one of China's largest ports, just south of Shanghai.

State media said more than 30 people were taken to hospital. The Xinhua news agency said the explosion happened in a demolished factory at around 9:00 am (0100 GMT).

A later statement by the city's Jiangbei district, the scene of the blast, said 16 people were still being treated for minor injuries while an undisclosed number had left hospital.

CCTV said Sunday evening that no one else was believed trapped in the rubble.

Industrial accidents are common in China, where safety standards are often lax.

Wasteland of debris

Aerial images posted by the People's Daily on Twitter showed at least four wrecked buildings around a wasteland of concrete debris.

Helmeted rescuers were seen carrying injured people away from the area, while others stood over a person lying on the ground.

Pieces of concrete, wood and glass were strewn across a wide area. Metal gates were twisted open and windows blown out of buildings.

The explosion sent chunks of masonry flying around the area, where buildings were already being demolished, according to Beijing newspaper Xinjing Bao.

The Communist Party's People's Daily said on Twitter that no one lived at the scene but garbage collectors might have been working there.

An inquiry has been launched to determine the cause of the explosion, the local police in Jiangbei district said on social media.

Ningbo is one of the country's major international container shipping ports.

China has been rocked by several industrial accidents in recent years.

In 2015 giant blasts killed at least 165 people in the northern port city of Tianjin, causing over $1 billion in damage and sparking widespread anger at a perceived lack of transparency over the accident's causes and its environmental impact.

A government inquiry into the Tianjin accident released in February 2016 recommended 123 people be punished.

The official who was mayor at the time of the accident was sentenced to 12 years in prison for graft in September. Huang Xingguo, 62, had also headed the disaster response committee.