KUNSHAN, China: A massive explosion killed 68 people Saturday as it ripped through a factory in eastern China, officials said, as badly burned victims were rushed to local hospitals.
The blast in Kunshan, a city in coastal Jiangsu province near Shanghai, also injured 187, in what appeared to be an industrial accident, state-broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
Photos taken shortly after the explosion show victims with their clothes burned off lying on the ground outside the white factory complex which was billowing black smoke.
State media said the plant produced car parts for automotive companies, including US giant General Motors.
A worker at a neighbouring Japanese owned factory told AFP he had seen dead and injured victims covered in brownish dust after the explosion.
“Their skin was broken. It was gone,” he said.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw a badly burned body on a stretcher being wheeled by hospital staff.
The explosion began in a wheel hub polishing workshop, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Preliminary investigations show that the blast was caused by dust produced as workers polished metal meeting with high temperatures or an open flame, the ministry of public security said on a verified microblogging account.
“We heard the explosion and we were all shocked,” a security guard from a nearby factory who declined to be named told AFP. He said the blast occurred as workers were changing shifts, resulting in higher casualties.
“The scene is a mess, it’s unrecognisable,” a witness at the scene wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.