China’s Sinopec suffers second explosion

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A lunchtime gas explosion at a Sinopec-owned cafeteria in southern China has killed one employee and injured 24 others, in the second fatal accident in four months for China’s state oil company.

Monday’s accident comes only a few months after Sinopec workers attempting to repair a leaking crude oil pipeline in Qingdao, northeast China, ignited gas and oil that had flowed into storm sewers, blowing up three city streets and killing 62 people, including the repair crew.

The Qingdao explosion turned the spotlight on safety procedures at the giant oil companies, which have long enjoyed a cosy relationship with government officials and a monopoly over oil and gas supply and transport.

Recently proposed reforms would create a more liberalised energy sector by opening gas pipelines to third parties and allowing outside capital to take a minority share in energy infrastructure.

Photos from Dongguan, where the latest explosion took place, showed outdoor tables overturned and wooden chairs splinted by the force of the blast, which occurred at a terraced cafeteria on the fourth floor of an office building.

Sinopec’s local unit, Guangdong Oil Products Co, had rented offices on three floors of the building. Employees were rushed from the cafeteria to the hospital, said a Sinopec spokesman.

Restaurant explosions are not uncommon in China, and are often caused by faulty lines connecting gas stoves to propane tanks in small streetside eateries.

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