Scores die in China oil pipeline blasts

AP, AFP-JIJI

The death toll from two huge blasts caused by leaked oil from a ruptured pipeline in an eastern Chinese port city has risen to 44, with 136 others hospitalized, in one of the country’s worst industrial accidents of the year, authorities said Saturday.

Some 18,000 people were evacuated in Qingdao, a local government report said Saturday.

The accident was the deadliest involving Sinopec, China’s largest oil refiner, whose expansion of petrochemical projects has met with resistance from members of the public. The blasts in Qingdao on Friday will likely add to growing public concern about safety and environmental risks that comes with oil pipeline projects.

The explosions ripped slabs of pavement and photos showed bodies, overturned vehicles and shattered windows in nearby buildings. Black smoke rose above gigantic fuel silos and darkened much of the sky.

The pipeline, which is owned by Sinopec, ruptured and leaked for about 15 minutes onto a street and into the sea before it was shut off. Hours later, as workers cleaned up, the oil caught fire and exploded in two locations, the city government said.

Authorities ruled out terrorism but the incident remained under investigation, it said.