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One dead in Shanghai chemical plant explosion

SHANGHAI (AFP) – Huge clouds of black smoke billowed over Shanghai from multiple fires at a chemical plant yesterday that left at least one dead, according to state media and eyewitness video obtained by AFP.

The fire at a Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co plant in outlying Jinshan district broke out around 4am, but was brought under control later that morning, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Aerial drone footage by a resident shows thick clouds of smoke hanging over a vast industrial zone as three fires blaze in separate locations, turning the sky black.

“The fire at the scene has been effectively brought under control and protective burning is currently being carried out,” Xinhua reported. “According to our initial understanding, the fire has already caused one death.”

The fire erupted as Shanghai, China’s industrial engine and most populous city, gingerly resumes business after being sealed off for around two months to counter a coronavirus outbreak driven by the Omicron variant. While the lockdown was officially lifted at the beginning of June, the snarling of supply chains and shutting of factories continues to have far-reaching consequences for the global economy.

At the plant, an early morning explosion was heard by residents up to six kilometres away, according to local media.

Videos on social media showed a large cloud of fire and ash billowing upwards.

“The whole area is completely incinerated,” a shocked resident could be heard saying in the background of one video.

The refinery is very near the seafront in south Shanghai, as well as a wetland park.

Firefighters battle a fire at a chemical plant of Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical. PHOTO: AP