GUANGZHOU, Sept 12 (Xinhua) -- Supervision loopholes are behind Tuesday's warehouse explosion in Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong Province, which claimed eight lives and injured 36, local police said.
Three people, including the Jordanian owner of the goods, have been detained by police for illegal storage of explosives.
The blast happened at 11:50 a.m. on Tuesday in a roadside storehouse in Guangzhou's Baiyun District when workers were unloading goods from a container truck. A total of 36 people, including 11 children, were injured.
An investigation showed the goods unloaded were bullets with powder for toy pistols, the production and circulation of which are forbidden in China, the municipal government said in a press release.
The pistols, packaged under the name "8 shot plastic disc cap," contained powder made of potassium chlorate and red phosphorus. They are classified as fireworks, and their production and storage should be under strict supervision, according to the police.
The bullets are supposed to generate sound and smoke only. They are not destructive and cannot be used as assault weapons, according to the police.
However, the large number of these non-destructive toy bullets packed together without adequate safety measures resulted in the fatal tragedy.
The accident reminded local residents of another similar explosion in the Huangpu District on March 13, 2008, when eight people were killed. That accident was also caused by powder for toy pistols.
The Zengbao Warehouse, which covers an area of 8,000 square meters, is mainly used to store shoes, clothes, hardware and electrical appliances.
The warehouse is not qualified to store dangerous goods like fireworks, according to the police.
The Chinese government promulgated a national-level regulation on fireworks and firecrackers in 2006, which included detailed restrictions on production, transport and storage.
China is the largest exporter of fireworks and firecrackers in the world. According to customs, the products are only allowed to be exported by licensed companies.
The Guangzhou Municipal Administration of Work Safety identified the case as a "responsibility case" after a preliminary investigation, as the owner of the explosives had concealed the nature of the items and put hazardous articles in normal storage.
The complicated source of tenants is another headache for supervision.
The Zengbao warehouse is in the northwest outskirts of Guangzhou, where a cluster of warehouses, freight depots and wholesale markets is surrounded by densely populated communities.
The property belongs to Xijiao Village as a collective asset, and is leased to 84 lessees. A man surnamed Cai working for the owner told Xinhua that many of the tenants are employees of small foreign traders, mostly from the Middle East and Africa.
Liang Jiawen works for an Indonesian trader in Zengbao and fortunately escaped the fatal blast. She said most of the warehouses there were leased to foreign companies.
"The management here is not strict at all. Trucks can come in as long as they tell the entrance guard their warehouse number. Neither the trucks nor the people have been checked," Liang said.
Several foreign businessmen visited the warehouses on Wednesday, inquiring about the safety of their storage.
A merchant from Dubai who identified himself only as "Khalil" works in the overseas garment trade. He purchases clothes in wholesale markets around Guangzhou, has the goods delivered to Zengbao from different vendors, and ships them back to Dubai when there are enough to fill a container.
"I rent a warehouse in Zengbao via Chinese staff here, and the local cargo agencies help me with all the procedures," Khalil said.
He had arranged several deliveries on Tuesday, and later had to phone the suppliers one by one to cancel them, as the storehouses were shut down after the explosion.
According to the Arabic Chamber of Commerce in Guangzhou, there are around 20,000 Arabs living in Guangzhou who run over 1,000 companies, offices or restaurants.
"Logistics businesses with licenses to store dangerous articles are under government supervision," said an official from the city's work safety administration on condition of anonymity.
"But it is hard to supervise the large number of ordinary warehouses, which form the majority," he said.
Only through whistle-blowing can they discover illegal behaviors, he added.
A two-month safety overhaul has been launched by the administration across the city on Wednesday in the wake of the blast. The examination will focus on warehouses in the outskirts and suburban areas, as well as harbors, wharfs, logistic stations and truck lots.