An explosion at a chemical plant in western Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture on Saturday has left a firefighter dead and dozens of others injured. Employees of the Nippon Shokubai Co. facility in Himeji, near the city of Kobe, said they heard a large bursting noise, followed by temblors and the explosion of a chemical tank. Local television footage has shown large flames emanating from the plant, along with columns of black smoke rising towards the sky, while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze even after five hours.
National television broadcaster NHK has reported 30 people have been injured, in addition to the one death, consisting of more firefighters, several plants employees, and two police officers. Several are said to be critical condition after inhaling high-temperature fumes. Included in the explosion are said to have been two storage tanks of acrylic acid and one tank of toluene. Nippon Shokubai is known as one of the world’s major manufacturer of acrylic acid, a chemical used in making baby diapers.
The explosion occurred around 2:30 PM local time, however a call to the fire department was made just after 2 PM, reporting a chemical reaction that was producing large amounts of smoke. The explosion took the life of Nagahiro Yamamoto, a 28 year old firefighter who was among those trying to contain the fire. He died from severe burns all over his body.