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China launches month-long safety probe after deadly chemical blast

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China will launch a month-long, nationwide inspection programme into hazardous chemicals, mines and fire safety, the country’s safety watchdog said, following a deadly pesticide plant blast that killed 78 people last week.

The Ministry of Emergency Management said in a notice late on Wednesday authorities needed to “deeply absorb” the lessons of the explosion at the chemical park in the city of Yancheng in eastern China’s Jiangsu province.

Safety departments were told to investigate “poor, chaotic and small” enterprises and to ensure that unqualified companies are shut down. They are also under pressure to crack down on a range of other activities, including the illegal or excess storage of dangerous chemical materials.

They have also been urged to make use of big data and other technological methods to strengthen real-time monitoring of hazardous chemical producers.

The inspection will also cover the rectification of hazards in China’s mining and transportation sectors, the ministry said.

The blast in Jiangsu a week ago occurred at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company, which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds. State media said the company had a history of safety violations and had been punished repeatedly.

Authorities have been at pains to show that the incident was under control and continue to seal off rivers in order to prevent water contaminated with toxic chemicals from posing health risks to residents.

China has a history of major work safety accidents and each one normally triggers a nationwide inspection campaign aimed at rooting out violations and punishing officials for cutting corners or shirking their supervisory duties.

After a pipeline explosion killed 62 people in Qingdao in 2013, a nationwide safety inspection revealed nearly 20,000 potential disaster risks in China’s oil and gas sector.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait)

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