Beijing: At least 32 workers were killed and two injured in northeast China on 18 April 2007 when they were engulfed in white-hot molten steel in a metal factory. The accident happened at 5:15 am IST when a 30-tonne-capacity steel ladle sheared off from the blast furnace, pouring liquid metal onto the factory floor three metres below.
The molten steel swamped an adjacent room where workers had gathered for a routine shift change, the State Work Safety Administration said.
Rescuers were unable to get closer because of the intense heat emitted from the white-hot liquid metal which rose to a searing 1,500 degree Celsius, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The accident at Qinghe Special Steel Corp in Liaoning province highlights China’s dismal industrial safety record.
The tragedy happened in a factory workshop located in Tieling, a city of about three million people in China’s industrial heartland.
An official at the Qinghe crematorium in Tieling told AFP by phone that families of victims had gathered to view their loved ones, but police were refusing to let them in until the bodies were identified.
“They are going to have to identify the bodies through DNA testing because the victims were burnt beyond recognition,” the official surnamed Ma said.
It was unclear how many people were working at the time of the accident, or whether the workers in the room were ending or beginning their shifts.
Two machine operators were also injured.
The plant’s owner and three employees in charge of work safety have been arrested, Xinhua reported.
The safety administration had said earlier that an undisclosed number of “responsibles” were being investigated.
A steel company official said police had locked down the factory, a usual practice in China when criminal investigations are launched into industrial accidents.
Industrial accidents occur frequently in China with more than 15,000 workplace fatalities recorded in 12,800 mishaps at mines, companies and factories in 2005, according to government figures.