China's Toxic Shock

There was never any possibility of covering up the major industrial accident that rocked the Jilin Petrochemical Company last month. The 50-year-old facility, built with Soviet technology, is China's showcase chemical complex, alma mater to the country's top chemical engineers. On the afternoon of Nov. 13, pressure built up in a 40-m tower at plant No. 101, where nitric acid and benzene are combined to make nitrobenzene, a highly toxic liquid. Technicians tried to relieve the pressure but failed, and the column exploded, killing five workers and injuring 70 others. Five more explosions followed. The blasts broke windows and produced a...

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