updated 4/21/2005 10:20:45 PM ET 2005-04-22T02:20:45

An explosion tore through a chemical plant in southwest China late Thursday, destroying a three-story building and leaving 19 employees missing, the government said.

The blast occurred on the outskirts of Chongqing, a major industrial city, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing local officials. It said the Chongqing mayor was leading a search for the missing employees.

Debris and pieces of equipment were found up to 250 feet away, Xinhua said. It didn’t give a possible cause for the explosion.

Ten other employees were injured, the report said.

The facility destroyed in the explosion was an emulsification plant owned by the Dongxi Chemical Plant in Qijiang County, Xinhua said.

China suffers thousands of deaths a year in chemical plants and other industrial workplaces. Many are blamed on lack of required fire and safety equipment or indifference to safety rules.

This story will be updated.

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