XIANGSHUI, Jiangsu, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from an explosion in a chemical plant in eastern China's Jiangsu Province has risen to 78 as of Monday afternoon, authorities said.
Rescue workers discovered 14 more bodies after searching 20 companies within an area of 2 square km surrounding the blast site, raising the total death toll to 78, Cao Lubao, mayor of Yancheng, said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Among the dead, 56 people have been identified, according to Cao.
Of the 28 missing persons previously reported, 25 have been confirmed dead and another three have been found.
Cao said Saturday that the people reported as missing could possibly be among the victims whose identifications have yet to be verified.
The explosion damaged 952 houses in Xiangshui County. The 89 seriously damaged houses will be demolished. The owners can choose to buy new houses in cities with the compensation they received, move into new houses offered by authorities or have their houses rebuilt. The other damaged houses will be examined by professionals and strengthened, Cao added.
Houses with shattered glass and other slight damages will be repaired within one week, according to Cao.
Air quality near the blast site is now stable and meets the standards, he said. The authority has strengthened air quality monitoring, increasing the frequency of air quality report from every six hours to every two hours.
Measures have also been taken to prevent the outflow of contaminated water from the blast site, according to an official with Jiangsu's ecology and environment department.
Authorities have also invited 30 experts from the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Tsinghua University and other organizations to help find solutions to the contaminated water and other pollutants, Cao said.
Starting at 8:00 a.m. Monday, firefighters started a new round of checks in the industrial park for dangerous chemical materials to move them out and prevent secondary disasters, Cao added.
The explosion happened at about 2:48 p.m. Thursday following a fire that broke out in a plant owned by Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical Co. Ltd., in a chemical industrial park in Xiangshui County in Yancheng.