A series of explosions at a chemical plant in southwest China has triggered fears of a major environmental disaster. Local officials say at least 18 people were killed. A further 20 are missing and dozens more have been hurt. The blasts continued for several hours at the factory at Yizhou city in Guangxi province. The fire is said to have spread over 10,000 square metres. One emergency worker said a number of poisonous gases had been released.
The plant is said to produce chemicals used in making paints, adhesives and coatings. As work safety teams investigate the cause of the accident, some reports said a nearby river had been polluted. And, amid fears of air contamination, some 11,500 people were forced to flee their homes.