Blast at Apple's China supply factory halts production

Production of Apple technology products at a Chinese factory have been suspended after an explosion last Friday left three workers dead and 15 injured.

The blast was in the polishing department of Foxconn Technology’s Chengdu plant in southwest China, where Apple's iPad 2 tablets are finished, according to local media reports.

Foxconn has not confirmed whether the blast happened at an iPad factory, but said it had halted operations at the affected workshop and all others that carry out similar functions while it investigated the blast.

"The cause of this tragic accident is still being investigated by a joint investigation task force led by government officials and law enforcement authorities, but that task force has communicated initial findings that the accident was caused by an explosion of combustible dust in a duct," it said in a statement.

Market research firm IHS iSuppli forecasts that production of half a million iPads could be at risk if the shutdown in Chengdu continues until the end of June.

It is the latest controversy for Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision and China's largest contract manufacturer, which came under the spotlight last year for a series of suicides among workers at several of its factories in China.

Apple's iPad 2 sales suffered from supply issues in the past quarter and it expects supply to also be constrained going forward by disruption caused by the devastating tsunami and earthquake to hit Japan in March.