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Another worker dies from explosion at Foxconn plant

May 23, 2011 |  3:50 am

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The death toll from an explosion at Foxconn Technology Group's plant in southwest China rose to three on Sunday as preliminary findings suggested that the blast was caused by combustible dust in one of the facility's polishing workshops, the company said in a news release published on the website All Things D.

Foxconn, the world's largest contract manufacturer, assembles many Apple products, including the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. Company officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

Foxconn's factory base in Shenzhen was the site of about a dozen suicides last year that were blamed on draconian working conditions. Workplace hazards were also reported at the site of Friday's explosion, which initially killed two employees.

"Workers told us that the polishing department windows were shut and there was aluminum dust floating in the air," said Cheng Yi Yi of the Hong Kong-based Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior. "The facility wasn't even completed. There were prime conditions for an accident."

Operations at the plant in Chengdu in southwestern Sichuan province were suspended pending an investigation, the news release said.

It was unclear what effect the incident would have on client supply chains.

The company had been under pressure from both the Chinese government and its contract customers to improve conditions after the spate of suicides. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook inspected Foxconn's Shenzhen facilities during a visit in June.

The factory where the explosion occurred was completed in October and is part of a push by Foxconn to move manufacturing to China's interior, where wages are about one-third less than in the more urbanized south.

“In Chengdu and Chongqing, the pace of growth is palpable,” said Duncan Clark, chairman of Beijing-based research firm BDA China Ltd., referring to another major city in the area. "Officials are all chasing trophies of growth and [foreign direct investment]."

A May 6 report by Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior claimed that the Chengdu complex was opened prematurely and that much of the area is still a construction site. It was officially opened by Terry Gou, Foxconn's chief operating officer, only 76 days after construction began.

Families seeking more information about relatives working at the factory have had their requests denied by Foxconn, the state-owned Global Times reported Monday.

Also, a New China News Agency reporter had his camera taken away by three men in traffic police uniforms and his video was destroyed, the paper reported.

-- Benjamin Haas

Photo: Staff members work on the production line at the Foxconn complex in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on May 26, 2010. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press

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