A death toll of over 50 has been reported with more than 700 wounded in a deadly blast in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, officials and state media said on Thursday.
The huge explosion took place at a warehouse full of dangerous chemicals and caused a huge fireball in the western port city of Tianjin at about 11:30 pm local time (1530 GMT) on Wednesday, the Tianjin government said on its Weibo micro blog.
A second explosion followed the first, 30 seconds later, while it is said that shockwaves could be felt several kilometres away from Tianjin.
The China Earthquake Networks Centre posted on its website that the magnitude of the first explosion was equal to the explosion of three tonnes of TNT, while the second was equal to 21 tonnes.
Zhao Zhencheng, a driver who witnessed explosion while driving his truck, said: “it was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like. I've never even thought I'd see such a thing. It was terrifying but also beautiful.”
Photos and videos showing the flames and damage to buildings following the blasts quickly spread through social media.
The effect of the devastating blast was so large, it was easily seen by satellites in space, in fact residents in nearby districts reported to have said the blast had shattered the windows of many homes.
Ms. Yang, an eyewitness who was out shopping outside during the time of the explosion, told local media that the explosion took place “suddenly from behind” and that it was in the form of a “big fireball.”
"At the time of the explosion the ground was shaking fiercely, nearby cars and buildings were shaking, a few buildings' glass all broke and everyone started to run," she added.
According to the statement from Tianjin authorities 12 firefighters were among the deceased.
Late afternoon on Thursday, the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua reported that 18 firefighters are still missing as 66 of them are among the wounded who are under treatment at several hospitals.
Xinhua also added 1,000 firefighters and at least 140 fire engines were struggling to control the blaze in the warehouse.
Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded that authorities "make full effort to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property," according to Xinhua news agency.
Xi Jinping has also promised a thorough investigation on what happened and "transparent information disclosure to the public," adding that the person responsible for the incident should be "severely handled".
Chinese media immediately criticised the location of the warehouse containing such dangerous chemicals. They said it should have been far away from the living areas such as housing complexes and office blocks.
A week ago, city officials and managers of companies gathered to discuss tightening safety standards over the storing of hazardous chemicals. After the meeting, the Tianjin Administration of Work and Safety posted results of the discussion on its website.