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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

A devastating explosion rocked a Chinese-funded nickel-processing plant in eastern Indonesia on Sunday, claiming the lives of at least 13 individuals and leaving 38 others injured, according to reports from the Morowali Industrial Park. The incident unfolded at approximately 5:30 am local time at a facility owned by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) in Central Sulawesi province.

The victims, identified as eight Indonesians and five Chinese workers, faced a grim fate as an initial investigation revealed that the explosion occurred during repair work on a furnace. The blast, triggered by the ignition of a flammable liquid, led to the explosion of nearby oxygen tanks. The fire resulting from the incident was successfully extinguished on Sunday morning.

Tsingshan Holding Group, the world’s largest nickel producer and China’s leading stainless steel manufacturer, maintains a majority stake in ITSS. The industrial park, where the tragic incident unfolded, is primarily owned by Tsingshan and local partner Bintang Delapan. The safety concerns associated with the growing Chinese investment in the region have previously sparked unrest over working conditions at similar facilities.

The management of the industrial park expressed deep sorrow for the disaster, especially for the affected families. As a gesture of compassion, the remains of identified victims have been repatriated. Disturbing visuals captured plumes of smoke emerging from the site, with emergency services and workers on the scene.

In the aftermath of the explosion, acting Morowali district head Rachmansyah Ismail reported that 25 of the injured had been swiftly transported to hospitals, with 17 in serious condition and eight sustaining moderate injuries. This tragic incident follows a previous episode in January, where two individuals, including a Chinese national, lost their lives in a riot at a nickel smelting plant within the same industrial park. The riot erupted during a protest over safety conditions and pay.

Indonesia, a nation of over 250 million people, has grappled with deadly fires, and safety concerns persist in facilities funded and operated by Chinese companies. In June, a fire at the same plant left one person dead and six others injured, raising further questions about safety regulations and practices within these industrial settings. The facility in question is operated by PT Gunbuster Nickel Industry (GNI), a local unit of China’s Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry.

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