Firefighters briefly pulled out of site of Tianjin warehouse blasts after 12 confirmed killed tackling blaze
Firefighting efforts at the site of the Tianjin warehouse explosions were suspended briefly on Thursday morning after 12 firefighters were confirmed to have died tackling the blaze, state media reported.
About 1,500 paramilitary police officers, including members of its chemical brigade, joined relief and rescue efforts on Thursday afternoon, state media reported.
Emergency workers were pulled out at about 10 am due to the lack of information about what dangerous goods were inside the warehouse and how much of the material was stored, according to statement on the Tianjin government’s social media account.
Further checks were carried out and firefighters returned later on Thursday.
Thirty-six firefighters are missing, according to an earlier report from The Beijing News.
The city’s fire brigade said its personnel were first sent to the scene of the blasts at about 10.50pm on Wednesday night, 40 minutes before the first large explosion occurred.
More than 1,000 firefighters had been sent to the scene of the explosions before firefighting was halted on Thursday morning.
State media reported that the blasts have claimed the lives of at least 44 people and injured more than 500 others.
It is not immediately clear whether the 12 firefighters who died were among the 44 confirmed to have been killed.
Fires were still ablaze in four areas of the site when firefighters returned on Thursday, Xinhua reported.
Efforts to put out the fires have been hampered by debris blocking roads around the warehouse, the report said.
Firefighters at the scene told the Beijing Times it might be possible to bring the fires under control by Thursday evening.
Experts in biological and nuclear hazards have also joined the rescue effort, state media said.
Among the chemicals the warehouse company handles are sodium cyanide, often used in the mining industry to help extract gold; plus toluene diisocyanate, a toxic organic compound, the China Youth Daily reported, citing the firm's website.
State media said a pungent smell filled the area close to the explosion site.
Many firefighters were rushed to hospitals close to the warehouse after tackling the blaze last night.
Photographs of injured firefighters in wheelchairs or on stretchers, with their faces blackened and blooded, have been widely shared on the internet in China.