Mitsui Chemicals plant racked by explosions while shutting down; radiation risks dismissed

One dead, 22 hurt as glue factory blows


One person was killed and 22 others were injured early Sunday as explosions ripped through a glue factory in Waki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, setting the plant ablaze, police said.

The explosions also damaged about 400 houses around the plant, mostly by shattering windows, before the fire was extinguished at 5:15 p.m. There was no confirmation that toxic fumes were produced by the blaze.

The plant, run by Mitsui Chemicals Inc., was attempting to suspend operations because of technical problems when explosions started breaking out around 2:15 a.m., killing 22-year-old employee Shota Sunakawa, police said.

The accident also injured 11 other workers employed by Mitsui Chemicals or its affiliates, as well as 11 people outside the plant who were hit by flying glass.

The police said they plan to search the plant, which makes glue for wood and tires, on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injuries.

The blasts shattered windows at more than 400 places in Waki and Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and in Otake, Hiroshima Prefecture, which the plant’s premises straddle.

The plant had 3,400 drums of used catalytic agent containing radioactive materials on the premises, but the explosions did not appear to have any effect on radiation levels.

The radioactive agent is harmless to people, Mitsui Chemicals claimed.