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Toyota to restart Tianjin operations after giant blasts

An employee at a Toyota factory/FILE

An employee at a Toyota factory/FILE

JAPAN, Aug 26 – Japanese auto giant Toyota said Wednesday it would gradually restart operations in Tianjin after halting production in the wake of deadly explosions at a hazardous goods facility in the Chinese port city.

The firm said workers will on Thursday begin preparatory work to restart a factory kept offline since a storage facility near the plant exploded earlier this month.

“The restart itself will take place on Friday,” Toyota said in a statement.

The huge blasts killed at least 135 people and sparked fears of toxic pollutants contaminating the air and water.

At least 67 employees at the Toyota plant, including those who live around it, were injured.

The explosions happened while the plant was closed for a summer vacation, but Toyota said it decided to keep it offline to assess the situation.

The main Tianjin factory, which produces several models including the Corolla and Vios sedans, has about 12,000 employees and manufactured 440,000 vehicles last year.

Toyota had also stopped a production line about 70 kilometres (44 miles) away that depends on parts from the main operation.

That facility would be restarted on Thursday, the company said.

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“So far, we have been inspecting our production facilities and ensuring machinery is safe to operate, while conducting maintenance as necessary,” Toyota said.

The firm added that it was looking at ways to make up for the lost production, either through overtime or extra shifts.

Among two Toyota dealerships that were heavily damaged by the blasts, one reopened this week while the other remains closed.

Other Japanese firms including Panasonic and carmaker Mazda reported minor damage at their operations in Tianjin.

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