A chemical explosion on campus at Beijing Jiaotong University killed three students, the Beijing News reports (in Chinese).
The blast occurred at around 9:30 a.m. on December 26 in a school building. Three graduate students from the university’s urban planning and environmental engineering department were working on a wastewater treatment experiment in a science laboratory full of flammable materials, which exploded upon contact with air.
In shocking video footage circulated online, dark clouds of smoke and flames can be seen coming from the building. According to local fire department officials, eight crews and 30 fire engines were sent to tackle the explosion, but the three students died before they arrived on the scene.
A statement (in Chinese) released by the university on Wednesday says that the fire was brought under control around 10:20 a.m. and that no one else was injured in the blaze. Students and staff were alerted to stay clear of the building after the deadly blast. “A further investigation into the incident is underway,” the school officials said.
While no official word has been given on what caused the explosion, it seems that the incident was foreseeable and preventable. The Beijing News reports that Mr. Li, the academic supervisor of the three students, placed large quantities of flammable materials in the lab, including 30 buckets of powdered magnesium. Due to safety concerns over working conditions, a student of Li, who used the lab regularly, called the environmental protection bureau of the Haidian District on December 25, but the complaint fell on deaf ears.
Families of the dead students have arrived in Beijing and were accommodated by the university in a hotel adjacent to the school. On Wednesday evening, more than 20 staff members from the university greeted the student’s parents, who were told that Li couldn’t make it due to a “mental breakdown.” When interviewed (in Chinese) by the Daily Figure 每日人物, an online news outlet, family members of one of the dead students said that during the meeting, the school officials didn’t give any further explanation of the cause of the incident. They also insisted that the school wouldn’t offer more information regarding the explosion after the case was transferred to local police.