Two of the dead have yet to be formally identified, but sixteen of the bodies are reported to be plant workers. The plant owner said that two employees are still missing following the fire, which occurred early Tuesday morning in Yizhou city, in Guangxi province.
More than 12,000 people were initially evacuated from the surrounding area amid fears of more explosions and possible chemical leaks.
Firefighters tackling the blaze managed to extinguish the fire Tuesday evening. The regional environmental department said no chemical leaks had occurred at the plant, which mainly produces chemicals for adhesives and paints.
National media also said that over 100 specialists had been sent to the site to carry out inspections. Regional health and safety authorities are reported to have launched an investigation.
Explosions and other industrial accidents are frequent in China, resulting in thousands of deaths each year. Accidents are blamed on inadequate maintenance of equipment and disregard for safety rules.