An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed at least 47 people and injured more than 600, state media said, the latest in a series of industrial accidents that has sparked widespread public anger.

The blast occurred on shortly before 3pm on Thursday afternoon in Yancheng in Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai.

The fire was not brought under control until the early hours of Friday, state television said.

Survivors were taken to 16 hospitals with 640 people being treated for injuries. Thirty-two of them were critically injured, it said.

The explosion at the plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical sent fire spreading to neighbouring factories. Children at a kindergarten in the vicinity were also injured in the blast, media reported.

The cause of the blast was under investigation, but the company – which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some of which are highly flammable – has been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the China Daily said.

The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said in a statement late on Thursday that the environmental monitoring station in the area had found no abnormal concentrations of toluene, xylene or benzene.

Concentrations of acetone and chloroform outside the perimeter of the explosion zone were also within normal limits, it added.

Jiangsu will launch inspections on chemical producers and warehouses, according to an emergency notice published by official media on Friday.

The notice, published on the news website of Jiangsu Communist party, said the government would shut down any chemical firms found not complying with regulations on dangerous chemicals.

Public anger over safety standards has grown in China over industrial accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.

In 2015, 165 people were killed in a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin.

The explosions at Tianjin, one of the world’s busiest ports and not far from the capital, Beijing, were big enough to be seen by satellites and register on earthquake sensors.

Despite repeated pledges by the government to tighten safety, chemical plants in particular have been plagued by disasters.

In November, a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical manufacturer killed 23 people.