Two die in Foxconn assembly plant explosion

An explosion at a Foxconn assembly plant in China ravages building killing two and injuring 16, according to reports.

Foxconn Technology Group, manufacturer of popular consumer tech products such as the Apple iPhone, iPod, and iPad, as well as Dell computers, had a large explosion and fire at one of its manufacturing plants in southwestern China Friday night.

At least two people died and 16 were injured, The New Zealand Herald reports. Three of the injured are being treated for serious injuries. The explosion reportedly occurred in a building where Apple's iPad 2 was being manufactured.

A video of the accident scene shows black smoke billowing from at least one building as Foxconn workers flee the area. The local fire department has the incident under control, according to an email from company spokesman Edmund Ding, Bloomberg reports.

The incident occurred at about 7 p.m. local time at a Foxconn subsidiary in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, according to China's official Xinhua news agency. The cause of the explosion is currently under investigation.

The Herald reports that anonymous Foxconn employees told China's Economic Observer newspaper that the blast was likely a dust explosion, which can occur when powdered, explosive material is confined in an enclosed space.

Foxconn has stopped production at the site until the investigation is complete, according to Ding, who didn't divulge which products are made at the plant. However, the Economic Observer reported yesterday that the damaged plant assembles iPad 2 tablets.

Impact on Apple

Forbes reports the Chengdu plant may be one of two main manufacturing sites for the iPad 2, although the facility's exact importance is unclear at this time.

RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky says the blast could impact Apple in one of two ways. If the Chengdu facility does make the majority of iPads, Apple could have a serious problem meeting its iPad 2 production goals this quarter. However, if another plant in Shenzhen builds most of the tablets, the impact will be minimal.

Friday's Chengdu fire is the latest in a series of public embarrassments for Foxconn, which has been criticized repeatedly by human rights groups in recent years for its alleged mistreatment of workers at its plants.

A series of suicides at Foxconn's Shenzhen massive plant, which employs more than 300,000 workers, grabbed news headlines last year. The company said it would raise worker pay to help stop the suicides.

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Tags business issuesAppleDellPhonesapple iphoneapple ipadfoxconn

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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