Chemical Plant Explosion in Zhangzhou, China

An explosion has ripped through a paraxylene chemical plant in south-eastern China's Fujian province, sparking a major fire.

The blast occurred on Monday evening at the plant in Zhangzhou. Six people were taken to hospital, say officials.

State news agency Xinhua said 177 fire engines and more than 800 firefighters were sent to the blaze, which is now under control.

The plant produces the chemical paraxylene (PX), in a process many in China feel creates harmful pollution.

PX is a flammable chemical used in polyester and plastics manufacturing.

Construction of PX plants has sparked protests, including violent demonstrations last year in Guangdong province.

People living up to 50km (31 miles) away reported feeling a tremor from the explosion, and windows at a petrol station 1km (0.6 miles) from the plant were blown out, Xinhua said. Nearby residents were evacuated.

By Tuesday evening the fire had been contained and environmental teams deployed to monitor any contamination of water and the surrounding area.

Along with the six people taken to hospital, another 13 needed medical treatment.

Monday's incident was the second blast at the Zhangzhou plant in two years.

The plant is operated by Dragon Aromatics, one of the largest independent PX producers in China. The company has not yet commented.

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