07/31/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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PX plant blows up in Fujian, but for govt such plants are "safe"

The plant was slated for construction in Xiamen, but popular protests led to its relocation to Zhangzhou. Yesterday, it exploded coinciding with a People's Daily report praising China's paraxylene production meant to curb (ever-increasing) demonstrations against land grabs and pollution.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - On the day the People's Daily published a report highlighting the safety of p-Xylene (PX) plants in China, one such facilities exploded in the eastern province of Fujian. Although no casualties or toxic leaks were reported, the blast set off fresh alarm bells over safety and environmental threats to the country's environment.

The 4.30 am explosion occurred after hydrogen leaked from a pipeline's welding seam during a pressure test at the plant, Zhangzhou city officials said.

Owned by Dragon Aromatics, the plant was set to make 800,000 tonnes of p-Xylene, a hydrocarbon commonly used for making polyester.

A Xingzai village resident, who lives less than one kilometre from the plant, said the blast shattered windows and cracked walls and ceilings at her newly built home.

Flames shot as much as 50 metres into the air, but were swiftly put out by firefighters with local officials quickly saying there were not chemical leaks.

The incident coincided with a report in yesterday's People's Daily, claiming that p-Xylene projects had a good safety record on the mainland.

"There were no major safety accidents reported since 1985, when the country's first p-Xylene plant was put into production," said Li Junfa, chief engineer at China National Petroleum and Chemical Planning Institute, adding that more than ten p-Xylene production facilities were currently functioning properly around the country.

The newspaper report sought to get people to stop protesting against the construction of polluting factories that threaten human health.

In fact, a string of protests broke out earlier this year against p-Xylene projects in various cities, including Chengdu and Kunming.

Some of these demonstrations turned violent as tens of thousands of residents voiced their anger at local authorities, tired of land grabs, pollution, and runaway industrial development.

The p-Xylene project was originally planned for the densely populated coastal city of Xiamen, in Fujian, but massive protests by residents fearing potential health hazards forced the authorities to relocate it to a less-populated area in Zhangzhou.

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