China’s state media says chemical specialists from the military have arrived in Tianjin to test the air quality after the huge explosions that have killed at least 55 people, including many firefighters.
China has said that it will conduct nationwide inspections of businesses that handle risky chemicals following explosions that killed dozen of people.
There was one bright moment on Friday when 19-year-old firefighter Zhou Ti was pulled from the rubble alive, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Tianjin Tanggu Environmental Monitoring Station told media that sodium cyanide (NaCN), toluene diisocyanate (TDI) – a feedstock for polyurethanes – and calcium carbide (CaC2) are among the toxic chemicals that may have been in the shipping containers in the warehouse.
The explosions were like an quake or a nuclear bomb, locals said of the blasts that ripped through an industrial area where risky chemicals and toxic gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin. “It wasn’t that the firefighters were stupid”, Mr Lei said, adding it was a large warehouse and they did not know exactly where the calcium carbide was.
A total of 44 people were rescued, said Zhou Tian, head of the city’s fire department, after the two blasts happened at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday following a fire in a warehouse for hazardous chemicals.
Shockwaves from the blasts late on Wednesday were felt by residents in apartment blocks kilometres away in the city of 15 million people.
Others questioned reporting in China’s state-controlled media, and the stress on rescue efforts when disaster strikes. The air had a metallic chemical smell, and there was fear that rains mixed the chemicals could set off more explosions. Its manager has already been detained while the investigation goes on.
There were differing reports as to injuries suffered by firefighters Xinhua reported that four firefighters were injured, and two more were missing and “out of contact” as of early Thursday morning local time.
In an interview with the Shanghai-based publication The Paper, a fire official at the Ministry of Public Safety, Lei Jinde, was quoted as confirming that the first wave of firefighters used water to cool down areas on fire.
The operators of the Tianjin site have been accused of “clearly violating” safety rules. But they have no clear picture of what was stored there because the materials were in temporary storage and the site, owned by Ruihai global Logistics, was badly damaged. The company said on its website it was a government-approved firm specialising in handling “dangerous goods”. About 90,000 lived within a 5-kilometer radius of the blast site, the China quake Networks Center said.