Firefighter Dies in Nippon Shokubai Plant Blaze, 33 Injured

An explosion and fire at a Nippon Shokubai Co. plant in Himeji, western Japan, yesterday left one firefighter killed and 33 other people injured, according to local police.

Among those hurt at the chemical maker’s plant were 21 firefighters, 10 workers and two police officers, Hiroyuki Ichimura, deputy commissioner at the Hyogo prefectural police, said by phone today. An investigation into the cause of the incident has begun, said Akira Nakatani, a spokesman for the Hyogo police.

All production at the plant is suspended and Nippon Shokubai doesn’t know when it will be able to resume operations there, Akira Kurusu, the company’s investor and public relations manager, said by phone today.

The halt to output of acrylic acid at the plant may affect companies that make diapers, Kurusu said, declining to name companies that rely on Nippon Shokubai for the chemical. The Osaka-based company holds as much as 30 percent of the global market for that chemical, a base material for superabsorbent polymer used in diapers, he said.

“We are investigating the cause and the total cost of the damage with help from the fire department” and will cooperate fully with the police, Kurusu said.

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