Explosion at GM Supplier Plant Kills 69, Injures 200

Aug 04, 2014 12:30 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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General Motors has asked its main Chinese supplier to locate an alternative source of components after an explosion ripped through a factory on August 2, killing at least 69 people.

The accident at the Zhongrong Metal Products Co. plant in Kunshan city in the eastern province of Jiangsu this weekend was easily China's worst industrial accident in at least a year.

Not including the fatalities, around 200 people were injured during the blast, state-run Xinhua confirmed in a report on Aug. 3, raising its casualty estimate from overnight, according to Reuters.

The factory made wheels supplied to GM and other automakers, according to Zhongrong's website.

The Detroit automaker issued a statement saying it bought components from a company called "Dicastal," which works with Zhongrong.

The automaker added that it had no direct dealings with Zhongrong, which it described as a "Tier-2" supplier.

Tier-1 suppliers, like Dicastal, are "required to source from Tier-2 suppliers who must meet both in-country environment and safety standards as well as quality standards," GM said.

GM added that the accident didn't cause any immediate impact on production since it has "sufficient inventory" of the parts, without identifying what the components were, according to Reuters.

"We are working with our supplier to establish alternate processing capability," GM said in a statement.

The automaker noted that it was "too early to determine the cause of the explosion," though an official investigation is underway.

"We will closely monitor the investigation and, if asked, will provide any resources and information that can assist in this matter," GM said.

The incident occurred at a workshop that polishes wheel hubs, according to Reuters.

A preliminary investigation showed that it was triggered when a flame was lit in a dust-filled room, the local government said in a statement. They described the blast as a serious safety breach.

Police took at least two company representatives into custody.

GM spokeswoman in Shanghai said she didn't have any information on if GM "conducts safety inspections of production facilities run by lower-tier suppliers with which they do not do business with directly," according to Reuters.

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