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Tianjin warehouse explosion 2015

‘Air and water at Tianjin blast site both safe’ says official as report claims nerve gas detected

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 9:05pm

A Tianjin city environment official has reassured the public that air and water supplies around the deadly blast site are safe following reports that an unidentified nerve gas was found in the area.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of Tianjin’s environmental protection bureau, also said on Wednesday that he had received no reports of anyone at the scene being taken to hospital with symptoms of chemical poisoning, including cyanide poisoning.

His comments came after state broadcaster CCTV raised public concerns after reporting that an unidentified nerve gas had been detected at the site, close to the city’s port area.

Li Xinghua, a fire official, was quoted in the CCTV report saying that safety teams cleaning up the blast site had detected dangerously high levels of sodium cyanide and nerve gas.

Sodium cyanide can react with water to produce poisonous cyanide gas and public fears were already high after rainfall fell over the blast site for the first time since the tragedy on Tuesday.

Earlier reports said that 700 tonnes of toxic sodium cyanide were being stored at a warehouse owned by Ruihai International Logistics, where two massive blasts on August 12 killed at least 114 people.

Local residents and journalists reported suffering burns to their skin and seeing mysterious white foam appearing on the streets close to the blast site after Tuesday’s rainfall. There was also light rainfall over the blast site on Wednesday.

However, Bao said official testing around the blast site had shown there were no excessive levels of air or water pollutants.

He said water pollution at the blast site had been well contained and would be sent for special treatment to remove the hazardous quantities of cyanide.

Bao also said he had not experienced any symptoms, such as burns to his skin, even though he had been standing out in the rain at the blast site for about 10 minutes.

None of his colleagues carrying out tests “on the front-line” had shown any burns to their skin or other symptoms, he said

He added that tests on the rain water showed that it was also “normal”.

When pressed about the claims in the CCTV report, Bao said that his environmental protection officials had no access to the centre of the blast site, which was under the control of armed police, so he had no idea of what the unidentified gas might be.

However, he dismissed the latest public concerns, saying no one at the blast site had ever reported suffering from symptoms of chemical poisoning.