BEIJING, China – China’s president on Sunday visited hospitalized victims of deadly explosions that ripped through residential and commercial roads from a ruptured pipeline owned by the country’s largest oil refiner.
The official death toll from the blasts rose to 52 earlier in the day after rescuers found more bodies in the aftermath of Friday’s industrial accident in eastern China. Eleven people were still missing, according to the information office of the government of the port city of Qingdao.
Rescue efforts were continuing, the information office said. It said earlier that 136 people had been injured, 10 of whom were in critical condition.
The accident was the deadliest involving state-owned company Sinopec.
State broadcaster CCTV showed President Xi Jinping visiting a hospital in Qingdao. He spoke with and held the hand of an elderly patient, and talked and patted the arm of another. He also told a group of doctors and nurses to put all their efforts into helping the injured.
The pipeline ruptured and leaked for about 15 minutes onto a street and into the sea before it was shut off. Hours later, as workers cleaned up the spill, the oil caught fire and exploded in two locations, the city government said.
Sinopec’s expansion of petrochemical projects has met with resistance from members of the public, and Friday’s blasts will likely add to growing concern about safety and environmental risks.
Sinopec apologized Saturday for the explosions, which ripped slabs of pavement and overturned vehicles. It said it would investigate and “give timely reports.”
About 18,000 residents were evacuated following the explosions, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
It was China’s second-deadliest industrial accident of the year, after a chicken factory fire in June in northeastern Jilin province that killed 121 people.