The factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province manufactures aluminium wheels and serves as a tier-two supplier of original equipment products to General Motors through aluminium wheel maker CiTiC Dicastal.

State media said the accident was most likely caused when sparks ignited a highly flammable powder used in polishing the hubs.

The explosion is one of the worst industrial accidents in China in recent years. The unusually high death toll and the foreign ownership of the plant is likely to prompt the government to look carefully at whether negligence was involved.

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