Steel firm in northern Vietnam accused of hiding fatal explosion

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Two workers were killed and six others were injured as a steel furnace in Hanoi exploded March 9, but local labor safety officials have accused the company of hiding the accident for several days.

An official from the Hanoi Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs said the site of the accident at the Vietnam-Korea Steel and Iron Corporation located in the Quat Dong Industrial Park had been disturbed and that two bodies had been buried in the two days before the accident was reported.

"The accident happened on March 9, but the department was only informed two days later through the city police," said Bach Quoc Viet, head of labor safety at the department.

Police said the explosion happened as workers had not categorized the materials carefully and placed explosive materials in the furnace, causing the explosion while the furnace was burning at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Luong Van Dat, a 34-year-old Hanoian, and Than Van Hung, 25 from Bac Giang Province around 40 kilometers away, were killed.

Dat and Hung were working at other furnaces nearby and the pressure from the explosion sent their bodies flying.

Viet said when the department inspectors arrived, the two bodies were no longer available for forensic tests.

He said the company already negotiated with the victims' families to take care of the funerals and support each with VND20 million (US$962).

The department has asked the company to cover the medical treatment for six injured workers, who range between 23-39 years of age, all hailing from northern provinces.

A source from the company excused the late reporting saying that it had been busy sending victims to the hospital and since the accident happened on Friday, it was difficult to report to relevant agencies over the weekend.

Viet said the company could be fined up to VND30 million (US$1,442) for failing to report the accident in a timely manner or if it deliberately concealed the accident, according to a government resolution.

The operation of all ten of the company's furnaces have been suspended pending an investigation.

Dubious cylinders and tubes have made regular headlines in Vietnam. They tend to be bought by metal scrap dealers who do not bother to check their origins.

But the consequences only manifested when the cylinders released toxic gas that killed plants and sickened people when processed at scrap metal dealers.

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