An explosion rocked a Chinese-funded nickel-processing plant located in the Morowali Industrial Park on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The nickel plant explosion claimed at least 12 lives and left 39 others injured.

The explosion occurred around 5:30 am local time on 24 December. Sulawesi is a vital hub for Indonesia’s nickel production. Nickel is a crucial base metal used in electric vehicle batteries and stainless steel and plays a major role in the global economy.

Morowali Industrial Park spokesperson Dedy Kurniawan revealed that among the 51 victims, 12 individuals lost their lives in the explosion. The remaining 39 suffered varying degrees of injuries.

Of the 12 individuals killed, seven were Indonesians. The remaining five were foreign workers. All five foreign workers who lost their lives were Chinese nationals. The remains of several identified victims have been repatriated to their home countries.

The explosion occurred during repair work on a furnace, ignited by a flammable liquid, with subsequent blasts triggered by the explosion of nearby oxygen tanks. An initial investigation has outlined the sequence of events leading to the catastrophe. The plant is owned by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel.

The fire resulting from the explosion was extinguished on Sunday morning, but not before it had caused irreversible damage and claimed lives.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the facility, showcasing emergency services on-site and workers struggling in the aftermath.

An anonymous worker from the industrial complex described the victims with burned faces and clothes.

In January, two workers, including a Chinese national, lost their lives at a nickel smelting plant in the same industrial park during a riot related to a protest over safety conditions and pay. Another incident in June at the same plant involved a fire that resulted in one fatality and six injuries.

Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the explosion.