Chinese residents flee in ‘end of the world’ panic as toxic explosions turn sky black

China: Fire at petrochemical plant turns the sky black

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Explosions at a Shanghai petrochemical plant have led to apocalyptic scenes in the bustling Chinese city. Footage shared online showed the sky turning pitch-black while witnesses reported traffic jams out of the city as residents fled en masse. At least one person was killed while multiple explosions were heard at the Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical Co plant in the outlying Jinshan district. 

The explosions at the site took place around 4am and could be heard by residents four miles away.

Following the dramatic explosions, fires erupted at three separate buildings.

Videos on social media showed large columns of fire and ash billowing upwards as flames engulfed parts of the sprawling complex. 

Stephen McDonnell, the BBC’s China correspondent, tweeted footage of the blackened sky.

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He added: “Footage circulating of the fire at a petrochemical plant in #China is eerie end-of-the-world stuff.

“It’s now been brought under control but at least one death. It started in Shanghai area at 4am today. Gotta be pretty toxic air too.”

One witness, Byron Wan, tweeted: “Residents in the neighbourhood left Jinshan en masse, and traffic jams appeared as early as 5am!”

Sinopec confirmed it was monitoring for environmental impact and any damage to the surrounding water environment, 

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The cause of the explosions and subsequent fires remains unclear.

The plant is one of the country’s largest refining and petrochemical plants.

State news agency Xinhua stated: “The fire at the scene has been effectively brought under control and protective burning is currently being carried out.

“According to our initial understanding, the fire has already caused one death.”


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Shanghai’s fire department dispatched more than 500 personnel to the scene.

While under control, the fires at the site are expected to continue to burn for some time.

Shanghai is China’s main economic hub and only recently emerged from a strict pandemic lockdown lasting two months.

The government is pursuing a so-called ‘zero-Covid’ policy requiring everyone who catches the virus to quarantine.

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