At least 114 dead in massive blast that rocks China's Tianjin

By staff writer

Explosions at a hazardous materials warehouse sent a huge fireball into the sky, hundreds of people head to hospital for burns treatment

By staff writer |

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Chinese soldiers gather and departure at a residential area near the explosion site.

[Update - 11.39am, August 17]

  • Death toll of the massive Tianjin blasts rose to 114 after rescuers found two more bodies in the debris.

  • The identities of 54 bodies have been confirmed, while another 70 people are still missing. 

[Update - August 16]

  • Death toll rises to 112, with 95 missing. Among the missing are 85 firefighters.
  • A total of 46 people have been rescued from the site.
  • Saving lives will remain the top priority even beyond the 72-hour golden period for rescue, Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun said.

[Update - August 15]

  • New explosions and fire rocked the port city.
  • Angry relatives of missing firefighters stormed a government news conference to demand information on their loved ones.
  • The death toll has risen to 85 people, as local media reported that authorities evacuated a three-kilometer zone around the site on contamination fears.
  • China has sent a team of nuclear and biochemical emergency military workers to the area to search for survivors, the Ministry of National Defense said. 

[Update - 2.50pm, August 14]

  • China will launch a nationwide inspection of dangerous chemicals and explosives, and must learn a "profound" lesson from the two huge blasts.

  • Officials in Tianjin did not yet know what materials were at the hazardous goods storage facility that  exploded, or the cause of the blast.
    But Chinese media and environment group Greenpeace warned a host of  potentially extremely dangerous chemicals may have been stored there.


[Update- 12.32pm, August 14]

  • Rescuers this morning pulled one survivor from the wreckage of the warehouse in Tianjin, Channel News Asia reported.
  • At least 50 people have been killed and 701 injured - 71 are said to be suffering severe injuries.
  • More than 1,000 firefighters and more than 140 fire engines were at the scene. Xinhua reported 18 were missing while 66 were being treated in hospitals.
  • According to the China Earthquake Networks Centre, the second blast, which was more powerful than the first, was equivalent to a magnitude 2.9 earthquake.
  • The blasts shattered windows and cars and knocked down walls in a 2km radius.
  • Almost 22 hours after the blasts, fires were still burning. Thousands have been left homeless. Authorities expected the blasts to have forced 6,000 people from their homes.
  • President Xi Jinping demanded that authorities “make full effort to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property”.
  • The cause of the blasts is still unknown. The warehouse responsible is reported to have contained large quantities of highly toxic chemical sodium cyanide.
  • The owners of the factory at the centre of the blasts, Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui hai International Logistics Co. Ltd, have been detained. Xi said in a statement by official media that those responsible should be “severely handled”.

[Update - 3.48pm, August 13]

  • Scores of firefighters were already on the scene before the explosion, responding to reports of a fire, and at one city hospital a doctor wept over the remains of a firefighter still in uniform, his skin blackened from smoke, as he was wheeled past, along with two other bodies.
  • Mei Xiaoya, 10, and her mother were turned away from the first hospital they went to because there were too many people, she told AFP.
     All the windows of her home and the door were destroyed in the explosion, she said.
     “I’m not afraid, it’s just a scratch,” she said pointing to the bandage on her arm. “But mum was hurt badly, she couldn’t open her eyes.”
  • “I thought it was an earthquake, so I rushed downstairs without my shoes on,” said Tianjin resident Zhang Siyu, whose home is several kilometers from the blast site. “Only once I was outside did I realize it was an explosion. There was the huge fireball in the sky with thick clouds. Everybody could see it.”
    Zhang said she could see wounded people weeping. She said she did not see anyone who had been killed, but “I could feel death.”
  •  “It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,” said truck driver Zhao Zhencheng, who spent the night in the cab of his truck after the blasts. “I’ve never even thought I’d see such a thing. It was terrifying, but also beautiful.”
  • “The fireball was huge, maybe as much as 100 metres tall,” said 27-year-old Huang Shiting, who lives close to the site.
     “I heard the first explosion and everyone went outside, then there was a series of more explosions, windows shattered and a lot of people who were inside were hurt and came running out, bleeding,” he told AFP.

[Update - 2.27pm, August 13]

  • The official Xinhua News agency says the death toll has risen to 44, 12 of them firefighters.
  • At least 520 people were injured, more than 60 of them seriously, the Tianjin government said on its Weibo microblog, and the People’s Daily newspaper said four fires were still burning.
  • There were scenes of devastation as dawn broke over Tianjin. Windows were blown out of high rise apartments and office buildings were destroyed. A fireball appears to have swept through a parking lot of 1,000 new Renault cars, with the paint burned off and the cars left charred.

Huge explosions at a warehouse for dangerous materials in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 17 people, injured hundreds and sent massive fireballs into the night sky, officials and eyewitnesses said today.

China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, said that at least 17 people were killed and that 32 were in critical condition in hospital. About 400 were injured. The explosions late on Wednesday knocked doors off of buildings in the area and shattered windows up to several kilometres away.

"It’s lucky no one had moved in,” said a worker on the site, Liu Junwei, 29. "But for us it’s a total loss. Two years hard work down the drain."

“It had been all quiet, then the sky just lit up brighter than day and it looked like a fireworks show,” said another worker on the site who gave just his surname, Li.

 In one neighbourhood about 10 to 20 km from the blast site, some residents were sleeping on the street wearing gas masks, although there was no noticeable problem with the air apart from massive clouds of smoke seen in the distance. 

The explosion from another angle: