November 13, 2019 / 11:36 PM / 21 days ago

China launches new crackdown on chemical safety

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s cabinet will begin a nationwide safety crackdown on its massive chemical industry after an official investigation into a deadly plant blast that killed 78 people and injured dozens more in March.

The explosion, at the Tianjiayi chemical factory in Yancheng in eastern coastal Jiangsu province, has already resulted in the closure of dozens of small plants and China expects to relocate more than 80% of hazardous chemical production by the end of 2020.

A meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday said an inquiry into the blast revealed local authorities had failed to implement safety rules or crack down on violations.

A summary of the meeting on China’s official government website (http://www.gov.cn) showed Beijing will launch a new round of inspections into hazardous chemical producers throughout the country, and that local governments must eliminate all hazards around production, storage, transportation and waste disposal.

It will also work on new legislation to help enforce safety rules and punish offenders, and curb “blind and disorderly” development in the industry.

The March blast sent shockwaves throughout the chemical industry, with industry officials saying costs have risen and supply chains have been disrupted as a result of stricter inspections and plant closures.

As well as tighter zoning regulations that prevent chemical plants from being built near residential areas, China is now implementing new rules on the transportation and disposal of hazardous materials.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Sam Holmes

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