Financial Times: China factory explosions kill 17 workers

China Labour Bulletin is quoted in the following article. Copyright remains with the original publisher.

December 31, 2014
Tom Mitchell in Beijing

At least 17 workers were killed by explosions in an automotive components factory in southern China on New Year’s Eve — the latest in a series of deadly industrial accidents in the world’s workshop.

State media reported that another 20 people were injured after three blasts ripped apart a machinery factory in Foshan, a manufacturing hub in Guangdong province, at 9:30am.

Executives at Fuwa Engineering, which makes truck components, could not be reached immediately for comment.

The tragedy in Foshan came just hours after the Chinese government revealed that the death toll in the country’s worst industrial accident in 2014 — an explosion at another auto parts factory in August - was double the number originally reported.

On Tuesday night, the State Administration of Work Safety said that at least 146 workers at Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products in eastern Jiangsu province had died in the incident, compared to initial reports of 75 deaths.

The government added that it had sacked the party secretary and mayor in Kunshan, an important export hub near Shanghai, and also sanctioned a deputy provincial governor over the accident in which a room filled with metal dust exploded.

Another 18 people, including Kunshan Zhongrong’s chairman, will be prosecuted and could receive severe punishments.

On December 27, a court in the northeastern Jilin province convicted more than a dozen executives and officials for alleged lapses that contributed to a poultry plant fire that claimed 121 lives in June 2013.

The plant’s chairman and two senior firemen received prison sentences ranging from five to nine years, after the court found that emergency exits had been locked.

“It was obvious soon after the accident that local officials had failed to ensure the factory complied with even the most rudimentary of safety measures,” said China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based worker rights group.

In November, two coal mine disasters and a fire at a food processing plant claimed the lives of another 55 Chinese workers.

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