• Reuters


Safety hazards have been found at almost 70 percent of firms handling dangerous chemicals inspected in Beijing since two massive blasts killed 114 people last week, including a branch of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec Corp. state media reported late Thursday.

An inspection of 124 sites that stored dangerous chemicals in the Chinese capital found hazards at 85 firms, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing Beijing’s work safety bureau.

Two of those firms were shut after inspectors found they did not meet appropriate safety standards.

The inspections were ordered after two huge explosions devastated an industrial park in the northeastern port city of Tianjin late on Aug. 12. More than 700 people were injured and thousands have been evacuated because of the risk posed by chemicals stored at the site.

State authorities have confirmed that more than 700 tons of the deadly chemical sodium cyanide were stored at the Tianjin warehouse that blew up.

Inspectors found that security personnel at the Beijing branch of Sinopec Corp. were unfamiliar with how to handle an oil tank fire, Xinhua said. Employees were also found smoking in dormitories near the facility, it said.

“Companies that fail our inspections will be ordered to suspend operations, and their warehouses will be put under 24-hour surveillance,” Qian Shan, vice head of the Beijing work safety bureau, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Despite the infractions found at the Sinopec branch, Xinhua did not say that the facility would be shut.

Beijing has also suspended operations at firms that make or deal in highly toxic chemicals and explosives from Aug. 17 to Sept. 6 in preparation for a military parade and athletics event, Xinhua said.

The blasts at Tianjin, the world’s 10th-busiest port and the gateway to China’s industrial northeast, prompted a nationwide review of China’s industrial safety record, which has struggled to keep pace with the breakneck speed of economic growth.

China has struggled in recent years with incidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires, and President Xi Jinping has vowed that authorities should learn the lessons paid for with blood.

Executives of Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics, the firm whose warehouse exploded, have said they used connections to obtain safety approvals. The site was found to be too close to nearby homes.

A nationwide inspection of facilities handling dangerous chemicals and explosives was ordered by the State Council a week ago. It said in a statement on Thursday that advanced equipment and the best expertise needed to be used to prevent major environmental incidents in the future.

Xinhua said more than 300 inspection teams in southwestern Sichuan province had checked 1,258 chemical-related firms and had ordered one company to stop production.

Northwestern Gansu province had also ordered chemical companies with fire or explosion risks to suspend operations. Marine authorities in the coastal city of Shanghai, China’s financial hub, are reviewing ships that transport dangerous goods, it said.

On Wednesday, three oil and gas firms close to residences were told by authorities in the cities of Hangzhou and Shenzhen to halt operations.

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