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China Factory Explosion Kills More Than 40

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CHINA AMBULANCE
An ambulance, the part of a convoy of vehicles carrying eight Mexican travelers depart from a sealed-off hotel to the airport after they were held under quarantine in Beijing, China, Tuesday, May 5, 2009. A chartered Mexican plane arrived in the first of several Chinese cities Tuesday to collect about 70 Mexicans quarantined over swine flu fears in what their president denounced as discrimination and one stranded traveler compared to a kidnapping. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING (AP) — At least 65 people were killed Saturday by an explosion at an eastern Chinese automotive parts factory that supplies General Motors, state media reported.

The blast at the factory in the city of Kunshan in Jiangsu province also left more than 100 people injured, with many suffering severe burns, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Kunshan is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Beijing.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage shot by residents of large plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the plant. News websites posted photos showing survivors or victims being lifted onto the back of large trucks, their bodies black presumably from burns or being covered in soot.

Some survivors were seen sitting on wooden cargo platforms on the road outside the factory, their clothes apparently burned off and skin exposed or being carried into ambulances.

The factory is operated by the Zhongrong Metal Products Company, a Taiwanese enterprise that according to its website was set up in 1998 and has a registered capital of $8.8 million. Its core business is electroplating aluminum alloy wheel hubs, the website says, while it supplies GM and other companies.

There were more than 200 workers at the site when the blast occurred, Xinhua cited the city government as saying. More than 120 people who were injured have been sent to hospitals in Kunshan and the nearby city of Suzhou.

A preliminary investigation has shown that the blast was likely a dust explosion, Xinhua said. Such an explosion is the fast combustion of particles suspended in air in an enclosed space. The particles could include dust or powdered metals such as aluminum. They would have to come into contact with a spark, such as fire, an overheated surface, or electrical discharge from machinery.

Calls to the city's government and police rang unanswered. A woman who answered the main phone line at the Zhongrong metal company refused to give any information and or the contact numbers of company staffers handling the case.

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Associated Press researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.

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