Workers overcome by gases at China paper mill, 7 die, 2 hurt

AP News
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Posted: Aug 29, 2015 5:58 AM

BEIJING (AP) — Workers were overcome with toxic gas from a paper mill's waste pool and seven of them died, authorities said Saturday, in China's latest deadly accident involving dangerous chemicals.

A worker who was cleaning the pool filled with pulp paper waste fell in and his co-workers rushed to help but were overcome with the noxious gas themselves, a statement from the Anxiang county government in Hunan province said. Seven workers died and two were injured.

The statement on Friday's accident didn't say what type of toxic gas was involved.

Separately, firefighters and environmental response crews were rushing to clean up about 15 tons of sulfuric acid spilled early Saturday from a crashed tanker truck in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The driver and a passenger in the truck were killed when it veered off the road into farm land near the resort city of Hangzhou and about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from major waterways.

The pair of incidents follows China's worst industrial accident in recent years, a massive explosion at a warehouse storing toxic chemicals in the port of Tianjin that killed at least 147.

Police have arrested 11 local officials and company executives in that incident along with a dozen employees of the firm involved. Nationwide safety checks were ordered after the Aug. 12 disaster, focusing especially on the storage of dangerous chemicals.

All the government officials are accused of dereliction of duty and abusing their positions, pointing to major gaps in China's regulation of industrial safety and management of toxic substances.

Investigators are looking into how the Tianjin warehouse gained permission to handle sodium cyanide and other dangerous chemicals despite being located inside a legally-mandated 1,000-meter (1,000-yard) buffer zone from homes and roads. The investigation has also found that the warehouse was storing vastly more chemicals than it was equipped to handle and had kept some in a loading zone rather than storing them securely.

Another worker was killed and nine injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in the eastern city of Zibo on Aug. 22.