March 25 (UPI) -- The death toll from a chemical plant that exploded in eastern China rose to 78 as rescuers continue to discover bodies among the rubble.
Yancheng Mayor Cao Lubao said rescue workers discovered 14 bodies after searching 20 companies within a 2-square-kilometer area, China's state-run media Xinhua reported.
Of the dead, 56 have been identified, he said during a media conference Monday, adding that 25 of the 28 people reported missing have been found dead.
The pesticide plant exploded Thursday afternoon in China's industrial town of Yancheng with the force of a small earthquake, reducing the building to rubble. The explosion is being blamed on a fire that broke out at the factory run by Tianjiayi Chemical.
A total of 617 people were injured from the blast, 21 of whom were in critical condition.
Cao said the explosion also damaged 952 houses within the coastal county of Xiangshui, 89 of which are considered seriously damaged and will be demolished.
Homeowners of buildings set to be demolished can either buy new houses with the compensation they have received, move into houses offered by the government or have their old houses rebuilt, the mayor said.
He also said measures are being taken to prevent the contamination of local water sources and air causality monitoring has been strengthened with reports to be produced every two to six hours.
The explosion is the deadliest industrial accident since the 2015 Tianjin factory explosion that killed 173 people and injured 1,000 others. Then in July of last year, 19 people were killed in a Sichuan chemical plant explosion.
Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China as many of them are blamed on weak regulations.
The owners and directors of the Yancheng chemical plant have previously received fines and warning multiple times over unsafe conditions. Last year, the State Administration of Work and Safety said the plant had 13 safety problems.
It also received six government penalties over waste management and air pollution over the years.