14 killed in eastern China chemical plant explosion

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An explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China has killed fourteen workers.

It happened at a melamine production unit in Xintai in Shandong province where a condenser was being maintained and repaired, local officials say.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known.

Industrial accidents are common in China and are often blamed on widespread disregard for basic safety measures.

The state news agency Xinhua reported that the explosion happened on Saturday afternoon.

The plant belongs to Shandong Liaherd Chemical Industry Co Ltd, according to a statement issued by the Xintai city government.

Four workers were killed outright and ten more died in hospital, while another five injured were in a stable condition, said the statement.

An investigation into the cause of the blast is under way.

Melamine is a nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastics and other products: however, Xinhua said no poisonous or harmful substances were released by the explosion.

China has a notoriously poor workplace safety record, with rules widely flouted as companies chase contracts and profits.

Accidents in factories and on construction sites are common - and China's coalmines are the most dangerous in the world, despite the government's efforts to improve safety standards.

Chinese internet-users have questioned whether China's rush to build a modern industrial economy has jeopardised workers' safety.

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