Factory blast in Chiba kills two

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

An explosion at an oil recycling facility in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, killed two people and injured 16 others Friday afternoon.

The deceased were identified as Ever Clean Corp. employees Kenji Ida, 50, and Kazuo Masuda, 52. They were pronounced dead after being found buried under debris, the Chiba Prefectural Police said.

The blast injured people at the plant and adjacent factories.

Ever Clean, which runs the plant, said the explosion occurred at a waste oil distillation facility where workers were handling engine oil. The cause remains unknown, but witnesses said it was so powerful that it was felt kilometers away.

“We heard a loud blast, then the house shook. At first we thought there had been an earthquake,” said an elderly female resident near the site.

“In no time at all the house was turned upside down,” said a cousin.

The explosion just after 4 p.m. blew apart the roof and walls of the plant, which later caught fire. It was so strong that it shattered windows at an elementary school around 600 meters away.

No schoolchildren were hurt and the fire at the plant was extinguished around an hour later.

Ever Clean President Eisaku Kato issued an apology Friday night, saying: “Smoke came out of a (waste oil) centrifuge and the blast followed after it was stopped for an emergency. We apologize to everyone in the neighborhood.”

The prefectural police said they are investigating whether there were any procedural problems at the plant leading up to the incident.