China chemical plant blast leaves 13 dead, many injured

Shattered windows of another workshop at Hebei Keeper Chemical Industries Company where the blast took place, 28 February 2012
Image caption Most glasses are shattered at another workshop of the same facility

An explosion at a chemical factory in northern China has killed at least 13 people, state officials said.

Part of the plant was flattened by the blast and witnesses said houses within a 2km diameter had windows smashed.

Police believe the blast, which left another 43 people injured, may have been caused by chemicals.

The blast took place at 0920 (0120GMT) at the Keeper Chemical Plant in Zhaoxian County, state media said.

Cheng Weiqing, deputy head of the Shijiazhuang City Public Security Bureau which oversees Zhaoxian County, says tremors were felt in at least three villages near the plant.

He told Xinhua that the damaged factory produced farming and other chemicals, including ammonium sulphate, guanidine nitrate and nitro guanidine.

A brief statementfrom the State Administration of Work Safety said the building where the blast took place specialised in producing guanidine nitrate.

Guanidine nitrate is a oxidising agent that is used as high energy fuel for space rockets. It is harmful to human health if inhaled.

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