47 Die, 179 Injured in Blast at Linen Mill in Northeast China

United Press International

A massive explosion ripped through a linen mill in the northeastern city of Harbin, killing 47 workers and injuring 179, the official New China News Agency said Monday.

A spokesman for the Heilongjiang provincial foreign affairs office confirmed a report in the official China Legal News newspaper that the blast occurred Sunday, when 470 workers were on duty at the Harbin linen textile mill.

The explosion reportedly occurred in the linen mill’s carding, drawing and spinning workshops. At least four workshops were destroyed by the blast.


The news agency said that an accumulation of flax dust may have set off the explosion. Dense concentrations of dust have been known to spontaneously combust under very dry conditions.

Massive Rescue Effort

More than 1,000 rescue workers, including police and People’s Liberation Army soldiers, rushed to the mill after the blast. Firefighters took more than three hours to extinguish a blaze ignited by the explosion, the news agency added.

The injured were taken to more than 10 local hospitals, and three burn specialists were sent to the city from the nearby Daqing oil field.

The linen mill was built with Soviet aid in the 1950s and had been on the verge of bankruptcy until 1982, when new equipment was installed, the official China Daily newspaper reported recently.

The factory, which now accounts for one-third of the city’s export volume, exported more than $18 million worth of linen products last year to some 80 countries--including the United States, Japan and Southeast Asian nations.