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Death toll at Apple factory rises to three

Sydney Morning Herald | May 23, 2011
The death toll from a blast at a Foxconn factory in China, reportedly in a building where Apple's iPad 2 was being made, has risen to three after a seriously injured worker died, state media said.
An injured man from a Foxconn factory, on a stretcher, arrives at a hospital in Chengdu in China's Sichuan province on Friday, May 20, 2011

An injured man from a Foxconn factory, on a stretcher, arrives at a hospital in Chengdu in China's Sichuan province on Friday. Photo: AP

The death toll from a blast at a Foxconn factory in China, reportedly in a building where Apple's iPad 2 was being made, has risen to three after a seriously injured worker died, state media said.

Two workers were initially killed and 16 injured in the explosion on Friday evening local time at the plant of a Foxconn subsidiary in Chengdu, capital of south-west China's Sichuan province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

An initial investigation indicated that the explosion could have been caused by combustible dust in the polishing workshop, it said, adding that investigators had ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

"Production has been suspended at the site of the explosion until the completion of the investigation," Foxconn, a Taiwanese tech giant, said in a statement.

"The safety of our employees is our highest priority and we will do whatever is required to determine and address the cause of this tragic accident."

Operations in the workshop and other plant sections with similar processes had been suspended for further investigation and safety checks, Xinhua quoted a spokesman for Hongfujin Precision Electronics (Chengdu) as saying.

Hongfujin is a subsidiary of Foxconn, the world's largest maker of computer components which produces items for Apple, Sony and Nokia.

The Economic Observer newspaper said the iPad 2 was being made in the building hit by the blast.

It is the latest incident to hit the embattled Foxconn after at least 13 of its employees died in apparent suicides last year, which activists blamed on tough working conditions.

Foxconn employs about 1 million workers in China, about half of them based in its main facility in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Foxconn has been expanding its workforce in other parts of China as it seeks to scale back the size of its Shenzhen plant.

The firm opened the Chengdu plant in October last year, Xinhua said.

iPad affected

The explosion could affect the supply of iPads and investors were watching closely. Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the company was assessing the situation.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragedy at the Foxconn plant in Chengdu and our hearts go out to the victims and their families," he said. "We are working closely with Foxconn to understand what caused this terrible event."

Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White said the factory made a lot of iPads because some production had been shifted to the facility from factories in Shenzhen.

Apple's iPad 2 commands 80 per cent of the burgeoning tablet market in which Motorola and Samsung Electronics also compete.

Apple sold 4.69 million iPads last quarter and is scrambling to meet staggering demand for the mobile device, but is heavily backlogged. Executives had expected production to ramp up during the present quarter to meet demand.

Foxconn made headlines last year after reports emerged about poor working conditions at factories in southern China, which critics say may have helped drive several employees to suicide.

The company pledged to improve employee welfare.

Facing higher wages in the southern China manufacturing belt, the scene of labour disputes last year, some Taiwanese manufacturers have opted to shift some operations to the country's interior, where costs are lower.

Foxconn also has plants in North America and Mexico, as well as in European countries, including Slovakia and Poland.



 

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