Death toll hits 104 as evacuation ordered in China blast

As number of confirmed deaths from Tianjin blasts reaches 104, president urges change in work safety and calls for evacuation of residents around site due to possible threat of 'toxic substances'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Aug 16, 2015

With the number of deaths from the Tianjin explosions in China reaching 104 by Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged for changes in work safety, after calling for the evacuation of residents within a range of 3 km from the site of the incident in order to prevent any possible chemical contamination.

Amid the ruins, a 50-year-old man was rescued after being found in a shipping container with severe burns, three days after the blasts. The man had a burnt respiratory tract, according to China Central Television (CCTV) and Xinhua.

As a result of the blasts, which had great repercussions, over 6,300 people are displaced, 721 injured and 33 in serious condition, according to Xinhua.

The two explosions occurred around 11:30pm local time (1530 GMT) on Wednesday at a warehouse site in Tianjin owned by Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co which is a company that stores and transports dangerous chemicals.

The explosions were so large that they were captured by satellites from space. Residents in nearby districts have said the blasts shattered the windows of many homes.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that after an evacuation was ordered anti-chemical warfare teams entered the site.

President Xi was reported as saying that authorities should learn the lessons paid for with blood in the blasts.

Meanwhile, security officials confirmed the presence of dangerous chemicals at the east side of the warehouse, including sodium cyanide, which can be fatal if inhaled.

Police declined to give further information concerning the amount of deadly chemical substances at the site.

According to Xinhua, some minor incidents occurred at the blast site on Saturday, including explosions of several cars and reignition of small scale fires.

Following the blasts more than 700 people - including dozens of firefighters - were hospitalised.

During evacuation, evacuees were ordered to wear long trousers and masks because of the chemical agents in the air.

The unpredictability of the situation has caused panic in the city due to the variety of dangerous chemicals at the site. The incident has threatened the lives of more than 90,000 people who live within a 5-km radius of the blast site, according to the Chinese Earthquake Administration.

According to Chinese regulations warehouses holding dangerous materials must be located at least 1 km away from city centers, public buildings and main roads.

A week ago officials from Tianjin and company managers held a meeting to discuss tightening safety standards over the storing of hazardous chemicals. After the meeting, the Tianjin Administration of Work and Safety posted the results of the discussion on its website.

Families of firefighters are concerned as no news has come from their situation or whereabouts, "There is no government official willing to meet us. Not even one," said one relative.

Meanwhile, firefighters have been criticised for using water to turn out the flames, which could have intensified the fire.


TRTWorld and agencies