SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained nine people in connection with oil pipeline explosions last week that killed 55 people in the eastern port city of Qingdao, state media reported on Tuesday.
Seven of the detained worked for Sinopec, which owns the pipeline, and two were from the city's economic and technological development zone, the Xinhua news agency said, quoting police.
The blasts forced Sinopec, Asia's top oil refiner, to cut production for at least two of its refineries in China's eastern Shandong province, according to industry sources. Oil traders also expected Sinopec to cut back on crude purchases while a backlog of tankers outside one port clears. ID:nL4N0JA24C]
The explosions, caused by crude oil leaking into the city's storm drains, left a gaping crater in a major street, overturned scores of cars and shattered windows at nearby buildings. More than 160 people were injured and nine were reported missing.
The accident resulted from a "very serious dereliction of duty", the Shanghai Daily quoted Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, as saying.
The layout of oil pipelines and urban drainage pipes was unreasonable, pipeline supervision was negligent and oil leakage before the blasts was handled unprofessionally, Yang was quoted as saying.
Initial reports said there was one explosion, but Xinhua later said the leak triggered two blasts, one near the leaking pipeline and the other close to where the drainage pipe empties into the sea.
Sinopec, or China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, has apologized for the explosions, which constituted its deadliest accident and one of the worst publicly reported industrial disasters in China this year.
Sinopec's refineries affected by the accident are relying on crude stockpiles and alternative pipelines for now.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Stephen Coates)