The death toll from a natural gas explosion in southwestern China climbed to 233 on Sunday as rescue workers began cleaning up a vast “death zone,” the official New China News Agency said.
Medical workers were disinfecting eight villages, testing drinking water and poisoned crops near the site of the blast, a gas field in Chongqing, said Zhang Mingkui, director of the Kaixian County Bureau of Environmental Protection.
About 41,000 people were evacuated after the blowout on Tuesday. Some began returning home over the weekend, but people with houses within three miles of the explosion were still not allowed to return.
The cloud of noxious gas swept across a 10-square-mile area Tuesday, devastating villages and poisoning farms. More bodies were found in mountain villages Sunday, pushing the death toll up by 35.
About 1,000 workers were clearing away almost 4,000 animals, including cattle, pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens and dogs, killed by the gas, the news agency said.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs had sent 10,000 quilts and 300 tons of food and medicine.
Workers poured hundreds of cubic yards of mud and cement into the 1,320-foot-deep well Saturday, plugging a mix of natural gas and sulphurated hydrogen that caused acid burns to the eyes, skin and lungs of victims.
A total of 10,175 people were either hospitalized or treated and discharged. Nearly 80 people remained in serious condition.
State-run China National Petroleum Corp. will pay compensation to villagers, state television quoted company vice president Su Shulin as saying.