Explosion at a nickel plant in Indonesia leaves at least 13 dead and 46 injured | Indonesia

At least 13 people were killed and 46 injured in eastern Indonesia on Sunday after an explosion at a Chinese-funded nickel-processing plant, an industrial park official said.

The island of Sulawesi is a hub for the mineral-rich country’s production of nickel, a base metal used for electric vehicle batteries and stainless steel.

The accident occurred at about 5.30am local time (21.30 GMT on Saturday) at a plant owned by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel in the Morowali Industrial Park in Central Sulawesi province, a spokesperson for the complex said in a statement.

“The confirmed number of fatalities is 13 people, consisting of nine Indonesian workers and four workers from China,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Forty-six other people were injured, mostly due to exposure to hot steam, he said.

An initial investigation showed the explosion happened during repair work on a furnace when a flammable liquid ignited and the subsequent blast caused nearby oxygen tanks to explode as well, the official said.

The fire was extinguished on Sunday morning, according to the statement.

The firm that runs the industrial park said it was “deeply saddened by this disaster, particularly for the families affected”.

It said the remains of several identified victims had been flown home.

Footage shared with AFP showed plumes of smoke emerging from the facility with emergency services at the scene and workers looking on.

A photo shared with AFP showed the bodies of the victims lined up on top of orange body bags in a room in one of the clinics at the industrial complex.

“Their faces were burnt, their clothes were all burnt,” a worker at the industrial complex said on condition of anonymity.

The facility is operated by PT Gunbuster Nickel Industry (GNI), a local unit of China’s Jiangsu Delong Nickel Industry.

In January, two workers including a Chinese national were killed at a nickel smelting plant in the same industrial park after a riot broke out during a protest over safety conditions and pay.

In June a fire at the same plant left one dead and six others injured.