Workers told to falsify amount of toxic substances involved
A company responsible for a chemical leak in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, was accused of covering up facts to escape punishment after the incident early this month, and seven people have been detained, the local government said on Sunday.
The incident actually involved a leak of 69.1 metric tons of petrochemicals, not the 6.97 tons reported earlier by Fujian Donggang Petrochemical Industry, Wang Yongli, mayor of Quanzhou, said at a news conference on Sunday.
He added that the company's attempt to hide the actual volume of the leak and falsify evidence was "terrible".
At 1:13 am on Nov 4, a hose from an oil tanker owned by the company ruptured while offloading toxic petrochemicals at a wharf in Quanzhou's Quangang district.
Aliphatic hydrocarbons are oily, pungent chemical compounds typically derived from the oil refining process. The toxicity is similar to gasoline and can cause irritation if exposed to human skin, eyes or respiratory tracts.
"After the incident, midlevel and higher employees of the company were told during a meeting to keep the real amount of the leak secret to escape criminal punishment," Wang said.
The enterprise's legal representative, surnamed Huang, called another meeting to ask employees involved to say "6.97 tons of chemicals leaked", after Quanzhou dispatched an investigative team to the company.
"Through the investigation, we also found there had been about 32.4 tons of petrochemicals in the hose before the incident, and there was another 29.7 tons of C9 that were not registered by the company," the mayor said.
Sixty-nine residents were hospitalized after the leak, the government said, adding that all of them are now in good condition.
The company was accused of seriously breaching laws and regulations, and a government department was accused of negligence.
Seven people, including Huang, have been criminally detained on suspicion of negligence that resulted in major consequences.
Some district officials involved in the incident have also been disciplined. Chen Xiangcheng was removed from his post as deputy head of Quangang, while Zhu Huiyang, director of the district's transportation bureau, and Liu Jiankang, from the district's safety supervision bureau, were suspended.