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Thursday, August 13, 2015, 22:38

Several detained over Tianjin blasts, 50 die

By & Xinhua

Several detained over Tianjin blasts, 50 die
An aerial view of the explosion site in Binhai New Area, Tianjin on Aug 13, 2015. (Xinhua photo)

TIANJIN, China - Blasts that tore through a warehouse in Tianjin's port area in North China on Wednesday night have killed at least 50 people as police detained Thursday several people of the company involved.

Seventeen among the 50 killed were firefighters. Another 701 people are still in hospital, many gravely ill.

Emergency personnel are continuing the search for the missing firefighters, but this is already one of the biggest losses of firemen in the line of duty for decades. Of the hundreds injured, most suffering from burns or broken bones, 71 are critically ill.

Two blasts occurred around 11:30 pm in Binhai New Area and were so strong that they were registered as seismic activity by the national earthquake center.

Binhai New Area special economic zone is part of the Bohai economic rim and home to numerous Fortune 500 companies. A cluster of logistics companies operate in the area immediately surrounding the blast site and virtually everything within a three-kilometer radius as been damaged or destroyed: shipping containers lie crumbled on the dockside, port buildings are reduced to twisted metal frames.

Several detained over Tianjin blasts, 50 die
Smoke billows from the site of explosions in Tianjin in N orth China on Aug 13, 2015. (Xinhua photo)

About 1 km away is two residential communities where burned-out cars block the streets and broken glass litters the ground. Most of the dead and injured are migrant workers who live in these communities. Many fled their homes in pajamas after being thrown from their beds by the force of the blasts.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have urged all-out efforts to save people and warned that "those responsible will be seriously handled".

Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun is on site and personally leading the emergency response.

On arrival at the blast site, Guo declared the first priority was to save lives.

The warehouse belongs to Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics Co. Ltd, a company licensed to store, distribute and import dangerous chemicals. The cause of the blast is still unknown but some company executives have already been detained by police.

Authorities said several containers caught fire before the explosion. More than 1,000 firefighters were still battling flames on Thursday afternoon.

Toxic fumes detected in the air after the deadly blasts are within national standards, Wen Wurui, head of the city's environmental bureau said.

At 4 pm, police detected high densities of toxic gases, including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, within 500 meters of the fire, but they were not detected 2 km from the fire, the headquarters said.

Discharge into the sea has been closed as the water is tested, Wen added.

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