Industrial Village Evacuates After Chemical Spill Kills 8

Villagers residing in an industrial zone in southwestern China evacuated their homes in the early hours of Saturday following a chemical spill that has left at least eight people dead and three more injured, according to local authorities.

Police in the city of Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province, said they received reports of locals having fallen unconscious near a chemical plant at 12:12 a.m. Beijing time.

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the area, which was later identified in reports as the Guiyang Economic and Technological Development Zone, an area of heavy industry with a population of around 150,000.

The local government and Communist Party office said the authorities found 11 victims in the area outside the Sanqiangxingxing chemical trade company. Eight had died and three were taken to a local hospital for treatment, said the statement, which noted that the surviving victims were all in stable condition.

The office added that a preliminary investigation found the chemical leak happened as workers were unloading methyl formate from a tank truck with license plates from Hubei, a central Chinese province roughly 500 miles northeast of Guizhou.

According to the statement, testing of the environment around the chemical plant was carried out at 5 a.m. on Saturday. The air quality was determined to be within normal ranges, it said.

China's official state news service Xinhua reports that an investigation of the accident is now underway.

It was still unclear at the time of publication how many of the 11 victims were workers and how many were local residents.

A resident of the local Fengbaoyun village, identified by her last name Chen, told Hubei-based Jimu News report: "Our family has already lost four family members."

She did not elaborate whether her relatives were workers involved in the moving of the chemicals.

Another villager, surnamed Ruan, told the news outlet that he and his family were woken by a stinging smell at 2 a.m., roughly 90 minutes after Guiyang police received their first report.

Ruan said police and the fire department had already arrived in Fengbaoyun and were "handling the chemical spill."

"We smelled a very pungent odor that made us nauseating," Ruan told Jimu News. "We evacuated in the night and were still felt like vomiting in the morning."

The villager told the report that the chemicals were stored in an open-air facility. Jimu News said national regulations regarding the transportation of dangerous chemicals stipulate that tankers are not to stop in crowded areas.

The local government has yet to comment on details in the report.

Methyl formate, also methyl methanoat, is a colorless and volatile chemical used in the manufacturing of formamide, dimethylformamide and formic acid. It is also used as an insecticide.

Exposure to the chemical can use lasting irritation in the eyes and nose as well as the upper and lower respiratory tracts, causing breathing difficulties, vomiting and corrosion of the lungs, according to reports.

The Guiyang government website lists the Guiyang Economic and Technological Development Zone as having been established in 2000 as a state-level industrial zone.

Situated south of the city, it is Guizhou province's most concentrated industrial base for the manufacturing of aeronautics, aerospace, machinery and electric processing.

Chinese Firemen In Chemical Hazard Drill
File photo: Firemen hose down a truck during a simulated chemical hazard explosion and fire drill July 26, 2007, in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China. China Photos/Getty Images