New fires at China blast site pose danger

Chinese state media reports four new fires at site where two huge blasts killed 114 people last week

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Thousands of dead fish are seen floating near the Tianjin explosion site in China

Chinese state media reported on Friday that four new fires have broken out at the site of the explosions that took place in a warehouse storing dangerous in Tianjin on Aug 12, soon after Chinese officials said safety hazards were found at almost 70 percent of firms handling similar subtances.

The explosions devastated an industrial park in the northeastern port city, causing more than 700 people to be injured and leading to thousands being evacuated due to the risk of possible blasts from chemicals stored at the site.

"Rescue crews were rushing to the site after four new fires broke out. One of the "combustion points" was in a logistics site for automobiles near last week's blast, and the other three were within the central blast area," China's official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

Nationwide inspections of facilities handling dangerous chemicals and explosives were ordered by China's State Council after the blasts last week. State authorities have confirmed that more than 700 tonnes of the deadly chemical sodium cyanide were stored at the Tianjin warehouse that blew up.

Regional governments told firms handling chemicals - including 19 companies in Hubei province, 26 firms in Anqing city in the southeastern province of Anhui, two in Beijing, and 39 in Zhejiang province - to delay operations or close due to safety violations in recent days.

Fears over possible water pollution

Concerns have been raised about the possible effects on the environment posed by the immense fire and explosions in Tianjin.

“Advanced equipment and the best expertise must be used to prevent major environmental incidents in the future,” The State Council said in a statement on Thursday.

A day after authorities declared the city's drinking water was safe, thousands of dead fish from Haihe river near Tianjin were photographed by Reuters.

However, Tianjin officials have said regular seasonal low oxygen levels in the water is the cause of the deaths of the fish, not the nearby blasts.

Authorities have also warned that cyanide levels in the waters around Tianjin's port, the world's 10th-busiest, have risen to as much as 277 times acceptable levels.

China has suffered from many incidents recently, ranging from mining disasters to factory fires, which has led President Xi Jinping to warn China's authorities to learn lessons paid for with blood.

An International Logistics firm in the region, whose warehouse exploded, said they used connections to obtain safety approvals.

Safety reviews by inspectors around the blast area in Tianjin revealed that security personnel were unfamiliar with how to handle an oil tank fire and employees were also found smoking in dormitories near the facility.

Xinhua reported, "Companies that fail our inspections will be ordered to suspend operations, and their warehouses will be put under 24-hour surveillance," quoting Qian Shan, vice-head of the Beijing work safety bureau.

Xinhua also said Beijing has suspended operations at firms that make or deal in highly toxic chemicals and explosives from August 17 to September 6 in preparation for a military parade and athletics event.

TRTWorld and agencies