04/08/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Fujian, Zhangzhou paraxylene factory still burning

The authorities had declared the fire "extinguished", but it broke out again overnight: 19 people in hospital, six in serious condition. It was the second explosion at the plant in two years. Local residents protest against environmental pollution: for experts it will take months to quantify the actual damage.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The fire that broke out yesterday at a chemical factory in the southern province Fujian, blazed back to life overnight after being declared extinct by authorities, creating more environmental damage and new injuries among firefighters. The fire, triggered by a fuel leak within three huge storage silos, has "seriously" six people; 13 others were hospitalized in less grave conditions.

It was the second explosion at the Zhangzhou paraxylene plant in two years. The plant is owned by Dragon Aromatics and was opened to produce paraxylene - to make polyester - in June of 2013: initial storing capacity was reported as 800 thousand tons.

According to local authorities, "there are no signs of contamination of water or land", but according to several experts it will take several months to figure out if this statement corresponds to reality. Ma Tianjie, head of the Greenpeace China, estimates it will take six months: ​​even the chemical foam used to extinguish the fire may have polluted the groundwater aquifers.

Meanwhile the residents were forced to leave their homes and move about six kilometers from the area. At least 400 people have been put up in a hotel in Tongling, to avoid public protests and private investigation into the disaster.

Paraxylene is one of the chemicals most feared by the population of China, which has stepped up protests to push the government to move production facilities. In fact the factory in question was supposed to be built in 2007 in Xiamen, also in Fujian, but a massive and prolonged demonstration convinced the authorities to rethink its location. According to the central government, such chemical factories "are completely safe."

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