Japan Chemical Plant Blast Kills Five
At least five people have been killed in an explosion at a chemical factory in central Japan, according to reports.
Twelve others were injured in the blast at the Mitsubishi Materials complex in Yokkaichi City, police said.
Ranko Hirai, a spokeswoman at Mitsubishi Materials, said: "We confirmed that there was an explosion at our plant in Yokkaichi, where we produce silicon materials."
Maintenance crews were said to have triggered the suspected hydrogen blast shortly before 2pm local time while working on heat exchange equipment used in the production of silicon products.
Television footage showed stretchers laid out for victims and a pipe and machinery parts on the ground.
A worker at a nearby plant said: "I heard a boom and saw white smoke rising from the plant ... I don't remember there ever being such a serious accident in Yokkaichi before."
Authorities said the situation at the plant is now under control, although a detailed investigation into the cause of the accident could not begin while a danger of secondary explosions remained.
Meanwhile a Tokyo-based spokesman for the plant has confirmed reports that the factory was closed for several months in 2010 after inspectors found it had been generating high-pressure gas without the necessary authorisation.
Mitsubishi Materials makes a wide range of products including car parts, silicon wafers for memory chips used in consumer electronics and cement for road and bridge construction.
Thursday's explosion was the most deadly industrial accident in Japan since February 2012 when an undersea tunnel collapsed at an oil refinery, trapping five people.
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