Huge explosions in Tianjin, China; 50 killed and over 700 injured
Huge explosions in the port city of Tianjin in eastern China have killed at least 50 and over 700 wounded, according to official figures released Thursday evening, and left behind a devastated industrial landscape.
The blast occurred shortly before midnight Wednesday in the “Binhai new district,” a large area of factories and warehouses the pride of Tianjin, one of the main ports of China, 140 km from Beijing.
Twin blasts send giant fireballs and flames in the sky, pushing clouds of dust and debris to tens of meters in the air.
Spectacular images showed fire barriers surrounding buildings, rows of charred cars and imposing scattered containers such child’s play bricks.
Broken glass littered the streets of up to three kilometers of the site of the disaster, said a journalist.
The explosions are parts of a warehouse in the port area of the city, where containers were stored “hazardous” products, including chemicals, according to state media.
The power of the second explosion was equivalent to the detonation of 21 tons of TNT, said Chinese Center for Earthquake surveillance networks.
“I thought it was an earthquake. The sky was red, I was terrified,” Zhaobo Zhang, a local resident told AFP.
“The fireball was enormous, maybe 100 meters high,” described his side Shiting Huang, a 27-year-old young man who lived in a building nearby. Like many locals, he rushed outside.
“Then we heard a series of additional explosions, flying all the windows shattered. People went out, bloody,” he told AFP.
In the port area, dormitories for migrant workers were more than sheet metal carcasses crushed against the ground.
“I almost fainted”
The disaster left at least 50 dead and 700 injured, 71 were in critical condition, according to an official report updated reported by Xinhua news agency.
The wounded Thursday flocked to emergency hospitals in the city, transported on stretchers and for many the face or members covered in blood.
“I almost fainted, I was distraught. I’m still a little confused,” Zhang Hongjie confided to AFP that his head wrapped in bandages and streaked arm broken glass cuts.
After the destruction of his housing, security guard did not know where he would spend the next night. Some 6,000 residents had to be relocated Thursday night.
A doctor sobbed before the lifeless body of a firefighter in uniform, the skin blackened by smoke. At least 12 firefighters died, Xinhua said.
Dozens of firefighters, alerted following an outbreak of fire, were present at the scene prior to the start of explosions.
A thousand firefighters and 143 fire vehicles were deployed Thursday of warehouses, before the light comes back “under control” in the afternoon.
A team of 217 military specialists of nuclear, bacteriological and chemical also arrived on site to participate in cleaning operations, stated the State media.
Chemical components “toxic and dangerous” have indeed been detected in the air, announced Wurui Wen, director of the environment department at Tianjin Municipality.
But “observed levels are not excessively above normal,” he tempered, in a televised briefing.
On the outskirts of the metropolis of 15 million inhabitants, the Binhai area is home to myriad factories, refineries and leading companies, but its port infrastructure also make a crucial logistics hub.
Freshly imported about 10,000 new cars were destroyed by fire, nearly 2750 Germany’s Volkswagen vehicles, the newspaper Qilu Wanbao reports. The French manufacturer Renault, contacted by AFP, made her condition 1500 vehicles destroyed.
The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus operates an assembly line for the A320 in Binhai, but it was not directly affected, they said.
The element that triggered the explosions remained unknown, but officials of the company owner of the warehouse, Rui Hai International Logistics, were arrested by police, according to Chinese press.
The disaster reminded the poor record of the second world economy in terms of industrial safety regulations are often ignored for reasons of profitability and controlled lax.
In July, 15 people were killed and over a dozen others injured in the explosion of an illegal storage site of fireworks in Hebei (north).
In August 2014, 146 people (according to official figures) were killed in the explosion at an auto parts plant in Kunshan near Shanghai.