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5/20/2011
03:15 PM
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Two Dead In iPad Factory Explosion

A Foxconn contract manufacturing facility in China experienced an explosion, the cause of which is unknown and under investigation.

Two people are dead and 16 are injured following an explosion at a Foxconn manufacturing facility located in Hongguang Town, Pi County, Chengdu, in China's Sichuan province.

In an email, a Foxconn spokesperson confirmed that the explosion had occurred at about 7 p.m. local time on May 20.

"At this point, we can also confirm that there were two fatalities with injuries to 16 other employees," a company spokesperson said. "We are working with medical officials to provide treatment to the injured employees and we are working with government and law enforcement officials to contact the families of all employees affected by this tragedy."

China Central Television (CCTV), a state-controlled television station, reported that the explosion affected Hongfujin Precision Industry Co.'s polishing workshop in Chengdu, where Apple's iPad 2 is assembled. Hongfujin is a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, which also manufactures products for other technology companies like HP and Nokia.

Foxconn's spokesperson did not respond to a request to confirm that iPad 2 production had been affected. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

However, Foxconn said Chengdu authorities have the situation under control and that the cause of the explosion is under investigation by local police officials. "Production has been suspended at the site of the explosion until the completion of the investigation," the company spokesperson said. "The safety of our employees is our highest priority and we will do whatever is required to determine and address the cause of this tragic accident."

One Chinese news source said "insiders" attribute the incident to a dust explosion, combustible concentrations of dust presumably being a by-product of some industrial polishing process.

Other Chinese media reports suggest that the incident does not appear to be a deliberate act and that lightning may have triggered the explosion. News reports also indicate that causalities may have less than they could have been because the explosion took place during a shift change.

A YouTube video taken by someone with access to the affected facility doesn't provide much additional detail. However, those speaking in the video note that many workers at the facility will now be homeless, according to a TechWeb employee fluent in Chinese.

Thus it appears the manufacturing facility's dormitories have also been at least partially damaged by the blast.

Last year, a series of suicides at Foxconn plants raised questions about working conditions at the company's facilities. The company's defenders have argued that the company provides a good working environment and that the suicide rate at Foxconn plants is lower than the national suicide rate in China.

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