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Fatalities during anti-China riots in Vietnam

Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to foreign factories and rampaged through industrial zones in Binh.

Protesters wave flags and hold placards on a street outside a factory building in Binh Duong on 14 May, 2014, as anti-China protesters set more than a dozen factories on fire in Vietnam. Picture: AFP.

HANOI - More than 20 people were killed and rioters attacked Vietnam's biggest steel plant overnight as violent anti-China protests spread to the centre of the country a day after arson and looting in the south.

A doctor at a hospital in central Ha Tinh province said five Vietnamese workers and 16 other people described as Chinese were killed in the rioting, one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations since the neighbours fought a brief border war in 1979.

"There were about a hundred people sent to the hospital last night. Many were Chinese. More are being sent to the hospital this morning," the doctor at Ha Tinh General Hospital told Reuters.

Hundreds of Chinese had fled Vietnam, either by air or by crossing into neighbouring Cambodia, reports said.

Taiwanese media said rioters attacked a huge steel plant in Ha Tinh province owned by Formosa Plastics Group, Taiwan's biggest investor in Vietnam.

When completed in 2020, it will be Southeast Asia's largest steel plant and will include a seaport and a 2,150 MW power plant.

Local media in Vietnam has said the complex could cost about $20 billion.

The anti-China riots erupted in industrial zones in the south of the country on Tuesday after protests against Beijing placing an oil rig in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Hanoi.

The brunt of the violence has been borne by Taiwanese firms, mistaken by the rioters to be owned by mainland Chinese.

Officials from Formosa Plastics were not immediately available for comment.

Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to foreign factories and rampaged through industrial zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces on Tuesday, officials said. There were no confirmed reports of any violence later in that area.