China blames leaking, sparks for deadly oil blast

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2014 at 3:08 am •  Published: January 9, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — A November pipeline explosion in northern China that killed 62 people was caused by sparks from a jackhammer igniting oil that had leaked into the sewage system, revealing major vulnerabilities in China's aging pipeline network, government safety officials said Thursday.

The massive explosion Nov. 22 devastated a suburb of the port of Qingdao, leaving another 132 people injured. It ripped apart streets, tossed vehicles into the air and tore the fronts off buildings, causing at least 750 million yuan ($122.7 million) in damage.

A jackhammer being used to repair a manhole cover created sparks that ignited fumes from oil that had leaked after a rupture caused by corrosion in the pipeline, State Administration of Work Safety spokesman Huang Yi told reporters Thursday at a briefing to announce the results of an investigation into the disaster.

Huang said human error was involved, and that both municipal officials and state oil company Sinopec, which operated the pipeline, bore responsibility for failing to carry out inspections and for weak emergency response.

"This was an accident for which people bear responsibility," he said.