By BENJAMIN HAAS & AIBING GUO
BEIJING -- Chinese authorities detained seven people from
China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, after
at least 55 died in a pipeline blast.
The personnel from Sinopec, and two from an economic
development zone in Chinas eastern Qingdao city were
detained by police, the citys Huangdao district
government said on its official microblog.
The explosion and crude oil leak on November 22, the
deadliest since at least 2005, adds to a growing toll from
industrial accidents thats building pressure for better
safety standards and management. It shines a spotlight on
management of state-owned energy companies after the government
pledged this month to allow more private investment as part of
the biggest reforms since the 1990s.
Someone has to be accountable for what has
happened, said Laban Yu, an analyst at Jefferies Group.
Sinopec executives can only escape with minor punishment
if investigation concludes that local government was at least
equally responsible for the accident.
Three calls to the office line and mobile phone of Lv
Dapeng, Sinopecs spokesman, werent answered. A text
message sent to Lvs mobile phone requesting comment
wasnt immediately replied to. Brunswick Group, which
consults on public relations for Sinopec, could not immediately
A woman who answered the phone at the personnel department
of Qingdao Economic and Technological Development Zone, who
declined to give her name or title, said she had no further
information on the two detained officials.
Last weeks blast in a section of pipe running under
city streets in Qingdao exposed severe problems of human error
and a very serious dereliction of duty, the
official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Yang Dongliang,
head of the team investigating the accident. President Xi
Jinping said the probe should be fast-tracked and
responsibility established, China Central Television reported
The 249 km pipeline began leaking oil at about 3 a.m. and
emergency crews were dispatched to conduct repairs when the
fire started in Qingdaos development zone, according to a
Xinhua report on November 22. Xinhua also reported the death
toll. Some of those killed were Sinopec employees working to
fix the leak, the company said on its website.
The incident led to stoppages in electricity and water in
nearby areas, with about 18,000 people evacuated, the Qingdao
government said. Cleaning and fishing vessels and dispersant
were being used to clean up the oil leak, which spread across
3,000 sq m in Jiaozhou Bay and the Yellow Sea, the Qingdao
Municipal Peoples Government Information Office said on
its microblog on November 22.
In Qingdao the explosion sent chunks of sidewalk flying,
crushing the roofs of trucks and public buses, tearing down
branches of trees and felling power poles.
A local police post was destroyed and rescue workers
scrambled to secure combustible materials while residents
queued for food as household gas supplies for cooking were
Its the latest fatal industrial accidents as China
seeks to improve workplace safety. More than 27,700 people were
killed or went missing at workplaces in the first half of this
year, according to the State Administration of Work Safety. In
June, a fire at a poultry plant in the northeastern province of
Jilin killed 120 people in the nations deadliest blaze in
13 years. Authorities detained executives from the poultry
plant after the fire, according to Xinhua.