The city is one of China’s largest ports with an estimated population of about 11 million, thousands of whom have apparently been displaced to temporary shelters.
They said company records were destroyed in the explosions and fire and the authorities had difficulty finding out exactly what was stored in the complex as firefighters attempted to tackle the blaze.
The explosion reportedly occurred around midnight local time along the docks at the Tianjin Binhai New Development Zone.
Residents likened the shockwaves to an natural disaster, and buildings three kilometres away had their windows shattered.
As of Friday, 56 people had died and more than 720 people had been hospitalized, including 25 critically wounded and 33 in serious condition, according to the rescue headquarters. More than 6,000 people have been relocated over contamination concerns; the warehouse contained risky chemicals. Emergency crews are still working to locate missing people; 12 firefighters are among the dead, and more remain unaccounted for. Videos posted on social media showed great flashes of light in the night sky.
Executives from the company have been detained for questioning.
Zhou was one of the first firefighters to get to the warehouse, according to the officials.
What are the concerns now?
Efforts to search the premises and treat the injured are a priority, but Chinese authorities are also trying to determine the cause of the explosions.
Tianjin’s environment chief said on Thursday harmful chemicals detected in the air were not at “excessively high levels”, but did not provide details about the toxins. Fires from the blasts were still burning Friday and chemical and nuclear material specialists from China’s military were on site, to clear hazardous materials that are believed to have been responsible for the blasts.
On Thursday, environmental chief Wen Wurui told a press conference that the local government has set up 17 monitoring points for air quality and five for water quality. Beijing News reported on its website that some unidentified yellow foam was flowing at the site.
“Of course I was afraid, how you can not be afraid?” said a man as he looked at his apartment block behind a police cordon.