KUNSHAN - An explosion killed 65 people Saturday as it ripped through a factory in eastern China, state media said, injuring 150 in what appeared to be an industrial accident.
The blast in Kunshan, a city in the eastern province of Jiangsu near Shanghai, "has resulted in 65 deaths", state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said, citing official sources.
The explosion occurred Saturday morning at a factory which is involved in the production of car parts for US automotive companies, including General Motors, state media said.
"We heard the explosion and we were all shocked," a security guard from a nearby factory who declined to be named told AFP. He said the blast occurred as workers were changing shifts, resulting in higher casualties.
Graphic photographs posted online showed a charred body being wheeled on a stretcher, and people with burned clothing sitting on the ground outside a factory complex that was billowing black smoke.
Preliminary investigations show that the blast was caused by dust produced as workers polished metal meeting with high temperatures or an open flame, China's ministry of public security said on a verified microblogging account.
More than 150 people were injured when a "powerful blast ripped through" the factory, beginning at a wheel hub polishing workshop, China's official Xinhua news agency said.
"The scene is a mess, it's unrecognisable," a witness at the scene wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Industrial accidents common
Police officers sealed off the area around the factory, part of a development zone in northeast Kunshan, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) west of China's commercial hub Shanghai.
Local residents gather to look as victims are layed out at the gate of the factory
The firm identified by CCTV, Taiwanese-owned Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Ltd. says on its website it employs 450 workers.
Forty people were killed on the scene, while more than 20 others died in hospital, the broadcaster added, showing footage of a huge plume of black smoke.
Neither the company nor a spokeswoman for General Motors in China were immediately available for comment.
Industrial accidents occur with some regularity in China, where safety standards are often lax. A fire at a poultry plant in the northeast of the country killed 119 people last year.
Reports at the time said that managers had locked doors inside the factory to prevent workers from going to the toilet, leading to the high death toll.
Medical staff have been sent from China's commercial hub Shanghai to treat burns victims, the People's Daily added in an online post.
Jiangsu province is located on China's coast. Many local and foreign companies have facilities there producing goods for export.
Kunshan is a centre for Taiwanese investment, with factories supplying China's vast automotive manufacturing industry.
The blast comes two days after at least 26 people were killed in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung in a suspected gas pipeline explosion.
A pipeline explosion in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao last year killed 62 people and injured 136.