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China jails 53 for deadly factory blast

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(FILES) This file photo taken on March 23, 2019 shows an aerial view of a chemical plant after an explosion in Yancheng in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. – A Chinese court on November 30, 2020 jailed 53 people for charges including bribery and negligence over a massive chemical factory explosion in eastern China last year that killed 78 people. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT

A Chinese court jailed 53 people on Monday after convicting them on charges including bribery and negligence over a massive chemical factory explosion in eastern China last year that killed 78 people.

The blast in Jiangsu province in March 2019 was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country in recent years and led to the closure of the plant.

Executives and employees of Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical company received sentences ranging from 18 months to twenty years in prison, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

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A handful of local officials also received jail terms.

The court in Jiangsu’s Yancheng city found that the company knowingly produced and stored hazardous chemicals and waste material despite “storage venues that did not meet safety requirements”.

It also found that six local government agencies — including the city’s environmental protection authorities — had falsified documents in order to hide the risk posed by Tianjiayi’s activities, with some officials accepting bribes.

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The explosion, sparked by a fire in Tianjiayi’s fertiliser factory, flattened the surrounding industrial park, blew out windows and dented metal garage doors of buildings as far as four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the site.

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In 2015, massive chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.

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