At least 75 people have died after a car parts plant in China exploded over the weekend. The plant located in eastern Jiangsu Province manufactured for a number of global car companies, including U.S. giant General Motors (GM).
The explosion occurred at 7:37 am in Kunshan City, which is not far from Shanghai. National broadcaster CCTV said the city holds a number of automotive factories.
Most of the victims were young migrant workers. The day's shift had just started then at 7 am and should end at 11 pm.
Initial investigations showed the explosion was set off by the ignition of powder or dust from the production process.
The People's Daily newspaper reported that authorities have detained five company officials of Zhongrong Metal Products Co.
Still, a workers' rights group believed the death toll could have been minimised or accidents could have been prevented had the facility installed proper measures.
"Safety measures like ventilation systems should have prevented such accumulation of dust particles. This tragedy is a result of lax safety standards in the workplace," U.S.-based China Labor Watch said in a statement.
Safety experts said that dust suspended in the air in the right concentration are perfect ingredients for explosions. They even make non-explosive materials become explosive under certain conditions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for severe punishment on those responsible for the explosion. He likewise ordered safety checks to prevent further disasters.
From January to June this year alone, China had already 19 serious safety incidents that killed over 200 people, Xinhua said on its microblog on Aug 2.
General Motors had confirmed that Zhongrong is an indirect supplier, manufacturing parts for Dicastal, a global supplier to the Detroit-based automaker.
"Our direct suppliers are required to source from tier-2 suppliers who must meet both in-country environment and safety standards, as well as quality standards," the AFP quoted General Motors.
The plant employs 450 people, according to the company's Web site. Its operations include plating and polishing of metal parts such as wheel hubs.
Xinhua said there were 264 people at the site at the time of the explosion.