At least 14 people were killed and nearly 150 wounded when a blast tore apart a neighborhood in a small town in northwestern China on Monday, battering nearby homes, shattering windows and sending residents streaming from the smoking ruins.
The explosion occurred in the afternoon in Xinmin, a town in Fugu County, Shaanxi Province, and by early Tuesday rescuers had counted 147 wounded, 113 of whom had been hospitalized, according to Xinhua, the main state news agency. Eleven of the wounded were in intensive care.
By Tuesday, rescuers had finished searching for anyone buried under wreckage after pulling six people out overnight.
An investigation into the cause of the blast suggested that it was another example of a widespread hazard in China: dangerous substances stored improperly and too close to homes.
“The preliminary assessment is that the accident was caused by explosives that went off,” Xinhua said, citing the police.
Video from blast site. Explosion rocks town in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, causing casualties pic.twitter.com/xjPxzuLAcJ — China Xinhua News (@XHNews) October 24, 2016
But Chinese news websites did not dwell on the disaster, and by evening the coverage was moved from prominent parts of sites. On Monday, the Communist Party Central Committee, a council of about 370 senior officials, started a four-day meeting. And at such politically delicate times, the propaganda authorities particularly discourage attention on bad news.
The Chinese government has become increasingly strict about enforcing safety rules, and deaths and injuries from industrial accidents have been falling.
But deadly accidents and rickety enforcement are still widespread. In August 2015, explosions at a chemical storage facility in Tianjin, a northern port city, killed more than 170 people.