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At least 19 killed in tanker truck blasts

Firefighters of Wenzhou Fire Brigade search under debris at the scene of tank truck explosion in Zhejiang. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The State Council Work Safety Committee urged authorities on Sunday to further step up efforts to supervise the transportation of dangerous goods and eliminate safety hazards after a tanker truck loaded with liquefied gas exploded on a highway in Zhejiang province on Saturday, killing at least 19 people.

The accident occurred around 4:46 pm when the tanker truck traveling from Ningbo to Wenzhou exploded near the village of Liangshan in Wenling city on a section of the Shenyang-Haikou Expressway, local authorities said.

A second blast happened when parts of the truck fell onto a workshop near the expressway. The explosions caused the collapse of some four-story residential buildings and factory workshops with people inside.

The death toll rose to 19 by 9 am on Sunday. A total of 172 people were hospitalized, with 24 seriously injured, Zhu Minglian, vice-mayor of Wenling, said at a news conference on Sunday.

The explosion broke the windows of nearby houses and apartments. It also left a 10-meter crack on the highway. The accident has caused severe damage to people’s lives and property. The search and rescue work is still underway while the authorities investigate the cause of the accident, she said.

On Sunday afternoon, two victims being treated at Wenling No 1 People’s Hospital for severe burns and other complications were airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, for further treatment, while six others were also transferred to the hospital by ambulance.

“Some of the victims had severe burns covering more than 95 percent of their bodies,” said Cai Haijun, deputy director of Wenling No 1 People’s Hospital. Seventy-nine people who were injured in the blast, 19 of them severely, had been admitted to the hospital.

The victims treated at the hospital were aged between 30 to 94. A 94-year-old patient had burns covering about 40 percent of his body and is still in a life-threatening condition, Cai said.

A special work group sent by the Ministry of Emergency Management arrived at the scene in the early hours of Sunday.

More than 540 people and six sniffer dogs from local fire and rescue departments have been involved in the search and rescue mission. They managed to rescue 23 people, the ministry said in a statement released on Sunday morning.

The State Council Work Safety Committee said it will supervise the investigation of the accident while ordering the traffic police to ensure tougher law enforcement to eliminate the risk of deadly safety hazards on the roads.

In April, the committee published a three-year plan to improve work safety administration nationwide. According to the plan, it is compulsory for all vehicles carrying dangerous materials to have tracking devices installed by 2022 to warn the drivers and the authorities about possible collisions.

Firefighters of Wenzhou Fire Brigade search under debris at the scene of tank truck explosion in Zhejiang. [Photo provided to China Daily]

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