Several fire trucks were destroyed in the blasts and nearby firefighters wept as they worked to extinguish flames, the Beijing News reported.
Hours later, amid the destruction in this northern Chinese port city of more than 13 million, the exact cause of Wednesday night’s blast remained unclear.
“We have already determined that several employees who were home at the time of the blasts have sustained serious injuries and some are in critical condition”, Golden said.
Chinese authorities are continuing an investigation into what caused two huge explosions at a warehouse in a main port city, as locals expressed fears about the possible presence of risky chemicals near the site.
Daniel Van Duren, a California native who lives in Tianjin, was at the top of a 33-story building to look for shooting stars when risky chemicals at the port about 1km away caught fire and started detonating.
The U.S. Geological Survey monitoring unit in Beijing registered the blast as seismic activity, while the China natural disaster Networks Centre said the magnitude of the second, more powerful explosion was the equivalent of detonating 21 tonnes of TNT.
The explosion, believed to have involved a shipment of explosives, sent huge fireballs into the air and triggered a blast wave that could be felt miles away, CCTV said.
The Chinese port city of Tianjin was a scene of total devastation and carnage earlier today.
Xi urged that search and rescue missions be carried out so as to guarantee the safety of the rescuer workers. It is estimated that over 6,000 people will be forced from their homes by nightfall because of the blasts.
Authorities said that the initial explosion was at the Ruihai Logistics warehouse, which stores hazardous materials including flammable petrochemicals, sodium cyanide and toluene diisocyanate.
Fires at the site yesterday afternoon continued to produce a steady cloud of smoke after city officials, unsure about the nature of the chemicals, decided to let the blazes burn out on their own.
Citing a local hospital, Xinhua said people had been hurt by broken glass and stones and some were seriously injured. Shipping containers were left buckled, bent and toppled on to each other like toy bricks.
In the U.S., the White House sent its condolences; spokesman Ned Price called the explosions a tragedy and praised the first responders working to help the injured. Media reports say at least 17 people were killed and hundreds are injured. 12 of the victims were said to be firefighters.
White House spokesman Ned Price says the explosion is a tragedy.