Twelve injured by explosion and fire caused by a leaking xylene tank at chemical plant

An explosion at a para-xylene plant in China’s Fujian Province has injured at least 12 people, and caused fires that continued for more than three days after the initial blast. Plans for the plant were mired in controversy and protests in 2007 led to it being constructed away from the city of Xiamen in a more isolated location.

The explosion is thought to have been caused by a leaking xylene tank. Hundreds of fire fighters struggled to contain fires at the plant caused by oil storage tanks igniting. It is the second such accident to take place at the plant in Zhangzhou, which is owned by Dragon Aromatics. In 2013, an explosion damaged several nearby buildings, although there were no injuries.

The siting of para-xylene plants has lead to mass protests in China in the past, with concerns over the safety of plants and the toxicity of their products forcing several new projects to be delayed, shelved or relocated. The chemical itself has relatively low toxicity, and is used to produce terephthalic acid, which in turn is used to manufacture polyester. Last year, Chinese scientists called for greater transparency to improve the chemical industry’s reputation.