(Vatican Radio) In Japan, five people are dead and more than a dozen injured after
an explosion at a chemical factory occurred during maintenance.
took place at a plant that produces materials for semiconductors. Witnesses said the
blast felt like an earthquake. A fire then broke out. Japanese media said the victims'
bodies were taken to a police station for identification. Some of the survivors suffered
The plant operator, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, said
workers were conducting routine maintenance on a heat exchanger, which involved removing
and washing a six-metre-long cylinder. It was unclear what caused the blast. Investigators
said it seemed either hydrogen gas had escaped or water mixed with a volatile chemical
used at the site.
The incident, in Yokkaichi, central Japan, cast a spotlight
on Japan's chemicals industry. Yokkaichi is home to a large number of petrochemical
plants and suffered heavy air pollution during Japan's industrialisaton in the 1960s
and 70s. Many local residents still suffer from lung problems, including what has
become known as Yokkaichi asthma.