Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Beijing — The Chinese chemical firm responsible for an explosion that killed 24 people and injured 21 others in northern China in 2018 hid information and misled investigators, said local authorities in a report published on Sunday. 

A gas leak caused the explosion in  November at a PVC production plant in Zhangjiakou, a northern Chinese city in Hebei province. 

“After the accident occurred, Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry Company did not report [the incident] to relevant government departments in accordance with regulations, concealed the accident, and misled investigators,” said the emergency management department of northern Hebei province.

In its report, local authorities also pointed to the company’s lack of safety measures and chaotic management for contributing to the blast.

Those in charge of key departments were “not at the company for long periods of time” and violations of labour regulations by employees were common, including playing on their mobile phones and sleeping during work hours, said the report.

Police have investigated and taken “criminal compulsory measures” against 12 employees and 13 local officials have been punished”, the report said, without offering details.

The report also recommended Shenghua Chemical Company, a subsidiary of ChemChina, pay a 9.49-million yuan ($1.41m) fine.

The Zhangjiakou blast is the latest alleged corporate cover-up in China, where industrial accidents are common as safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

A few weeks before the explosion, a chemical spill left dozens ill in eastern Fujian province. Later that month, authorities said the company responsible for the incident had deliberately concealed the extent of the leak.

The Fujian Donggang Petrochemical Company had reported 6.97 tons of chemicals had spilled into the sea, when the true amount was 10 times higher.

In August 2015, 165 people were killed in a chemical warehouse explosion in the port city of Tianjin. The government found that the disaster was caused by improperly or illegally stored hazardous materials.