Explosion at Grain Terminal Kills One, Injures Nine
On Wednesday, an explosion at a grain terminal in Rosario, Argentina killed one worker and injured nine more. Local authorities said that all workers are accounted for and that the fire that followed the blast has been extinguished.
The prosecutor for San Lorenzo identified the deceased as Domingo Ramón Giménez (61). The burn unit at the local hospital identified the injured as Jesús Zárate (35); Catriel Tobares (21); Darío Gómez (31); Juan Carlos Castillo (42); Luis Jesús Jaime (57); Ezequiel Sendra (28); Marcelo Novello (57); Mario Castillo (age not given); and one additional individual.
The facility's operator, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO), confirmed the incident and said that the cause of the blast is not yet known. “COFCO International can confirm that an explosion occurred at the loading area of its facilities at Puerto General San Martin in Rosario,” the firm said in a statement.
In response to the explosion, the Union of Oil Workers and Employees and the Union of Grain Receivers of Argentina called a 48-hour strike to demand safer working conditions. The strike is affecting plants and terminals at Timbúes, San Lorenzo and Puerto General San Martín.
"In all that area there is no activity, there are only minimum guards. There is no discharge, there is no loading of ships, nothing," said Guillermo Wade, manager of the Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities (CAPyM), speaking to Reuters
Pablo Reguera, the secretary general of the local oil workers' union, told Rosario Nuestro that the blast was the third safety event at the company in a year, and he alleged that the incidents pointed to "negligent" operating practices. He asserted that the firm could have known of the risk of fire if it had had the proper sensor technology in place.
COFCO is China's largest food manufacturer and trader, and it has been on the Fortune Global 500 list for more than 20 years. It bought a stake in the Rosario facility in 2014 when it took a 51 percent interest in Dutch grain trader Nidera, the terminal’s previous owner. COFCO acquired all remaining shares in Nidera this February.
Rosario, located some 180 miles up the Parana River from Buenos Aires, is the main agricultural commodities hub for Argentina. It accounts for about 80 percent of the nation's grain exports.