Beijing: A huge explosion outside a chemical plant in China's northern Hebei province on Wednesday killed at least 22 people and left as many others injured, the second major industrial accident in the country in the last four days.

The blast occurred outside the Hebei Shenghua Chemical Industry in Zhangjiakou, Qiaodong district around 12:40 am, igniting a fire that engulfed nearby vehicles, the officials were quoted as saying by thepaper.cn, a Shanghai-based website.

An industrial safety official, identified only as Wu, said that one of the trucks lined up outside the plant to deliver chemicals had exploded, setting off a chain reaction that engulfed other trucks. Chinese news reports, and images from the scene, indicated that a fiery explosion near the plant had set around 50 vehicles ablaze, including dozens of trucks, and sent a dark plume of smoke into the night sky.

The fire has now been contained, and a search operation is underway, authorities said. The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital.

Employees at the Shenghua plant said operation has been suspended out of safety concern.

Industrial safety is a major concern in China, where requirements for the storage and transport of chemicals and other dangerous products are often weakly enforced. This is the second major industrial explosion in China in the last four days. Two people were killed and 57 injured in a warehouse explosion in northeast China's Jilin Province on November 24.( PTI)

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