An explosion at an aluminum wheel factory in Kunshan, China, on Saturday, August 2, has claimed more than 70 lives within the first 48 hours of the blast.
More than 200 people also have been injured at the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Co Ltd. factory, which supplies General Motors and other automakers with aluminum wheels. Aluminum scrap and secondary aluminum ingots are often used in the production of aluminum wheels.
The blast occurred around 7:30 a.m. August 2 after an explosion ripped through a portion of the factory that polishes wheel hubs, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua. Hospitals in Kunshan and the nearby cities of Suzhou, Wuxi and Shanghai have admitted additional patients, many of them with severe burns, according to Xinhua.
Initial investigations into the blast are examining whether an open flame was lit in the dust-filled wheel hub polishing portion of the factory, according to Xinhua and the Australia News Network. Xinhua also has reported that two or more company officials are being held for questioning.
The explosion in Kunshan, which is in Jiangsu Province north of Shanghai, caused billows of thick black smoke and was followed by a search and rescue effort.
A report in the U.S.-based Chinese language United Evening News website, also cited by the English-language Taipei Times, says “Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products is a company run by Taiwanese [business owner] Wu Chi-tao, who serves as the company’s chairman.”