The official death toll rose to three Sunday from the Friday explosion at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, Sichuan Province as authorities announced an investigation was still under way and provided no information on the victims.
An explosion rocked the Hongfujin Precision Electronics plant Friday in a high-tech industrial zone west of Chengdu, killing three and injuring 15 more, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Families of workers in Foxconn factories have been asking the company for a list of dead and injured but their demand was turned down, Jian Guangzhou, a journalist with the Oriental Morning Post who was among the first to report the explosion, told the Global Times.
“I saw parents who were unable to get in touch with their children Saturday,” Jian said. “They went to the factory to see whether their children are safe, but the factory said there was no list of victims and refused to help.”
Xinhua journalist Yuan Jian confirmed with the Global Times that his camera was taken away by three men wearing traffic police uniforms who also smashed his video recorder.
Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the local government should not shield the enterprise when such an accident occurred even if these companies bring huge investment and employment to the region.
“Authorities should first publish available information, such as casualties, to avoid unnecessary panic,” Mao told the Global Times. “Families of the workers have the right to know what is going on. The government also must clear off similar safety hazards with the enterprises to avoid further damage.”
An initial investigation indicated the explosion could have been caused by combustible dust in a polishing workshop. Investigators ruled out the possibility of deliberate sabotage, Xinhua quoted officials as saying.
“The explosion happened in the north part of the factory. The south part is still functioning,” a low-level manager in the south part who requested anonymity told the Global Times.
“Workers in the north section have been transferred to the factory’s south part. Some told me the A5 building where the explosion occurred will be shut down for at least a month,” another worker at the plant, who also refused to be named, told the Global Times.
The A5 building still has many Apple products such as iPad 2 and iPhone 4, a head of security at the factory told the Economic Observer newspaper, adding that no journalists are allowed to get close to the explosion site.
The world’s largest electronics contractor, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, opened the $2 billion Chengdu plant in October to manufacture laptop computers, iPads and other devices, Xinhua reported.
The company made headlines last year after reports emerged about poor working conditions at factories in southern China which critics say helped drive employees to suicide.
Apple was also exposed to the media for its lack of awareness of working conditions at its subcontractors.
Zhang Han and Li Qian contributed to this story