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Thursday, August 13, 2015, 12:22

Witnesses recall panic of fatal warehouse fire

By Xinhua
Witnesses recall panic of fatal warehouse fire

The explosions left the neighborhoods rattled in Tianjin on Wednesday night. (Photo / IC)

TIANJIN - A huge blast woke Hu Xiaoliang on Wednesday night.

When Hu came to his senses, the 32-year-old truck driver found he had been catapulted away from beneath his truck, where he and his coworkers were resting.

The blast, which has left 17 confirmed dead and more than 400 injured, came from nearby warehouses at the Tianjin port.

Smog is still billowing from the blast site.

Soon after the blast occurred, Hu saw firefighters rush to the site. Another blast followed, and more firefighters rushed in.

In a nearby apartment complex, the balconies of many apartment buildings were shattered. The path within the complex was scattered with glass shards.

Du Wenjun, a resident in north China's Tianjin municipality, never imaged that he would see a "mushroom cloud" outside the window of his own home.

When the blast occurred, Du felt strong jolts and saw a huge column of smoke not far away. A video clip of a witness showed that the heavy smoke dispersed high in the sky, shortly after fires raged, accompanied by loud bangs.

Zhao Lirong, a 35-year-old businesswoman from Inner Mongolia, was sleeping when the blast blew off the windows and doors of her apartment, hitting her head, her son's neck and her husband's feet.

A dozen family members living in the apartment were wounded. All of them ran out of the building and walked to Teda hospital nearby.

In the few hours after midnight, around 40 injured people were shuffled into the hospital's hall and emergency room. Dozens were kept inside while those that sustained heavy injuries were transferred to other hospitals.

Volunteers helped maintain order outside of Teda Hospital and asked people to donate blood. Others were helping those with minor injuries to bandage wounds.

Blood stains were splattered on the floors of hospitals that received injured patients from the blast. Some of the victims were still recovering from the shock, and others were crying because they had lost contact with their families.

"Everything in my home was ruined in the blast. It is so horrible. The pants and shoes you see me wearing now were picked up on my way to the hospital," said a man with the surname Chi.

People rushed into the streets in their pajamas, and some worried that an earthquake could occur.

There was heavy traffic congestion for hundreds of meters at 1 am on the street near the warehouse, according to Lu Qing, a witness who drove by the scene.

The Tianjin fire station received the blast report at 10:50 pm on Wednesday. Nine fire brigades and three specialty teams were dispatched to the spot, followed by another nine brigades and 35 fire trucks an hour later.

Two firefighters have been reported missing and another four were injured in the battle against the fire.

"It's all black and smog, I can't see anything inside. Some of my colleagues had even worse injuries," an injured firefighter in his 20s told Xinhua reporters.

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