“I was sleeping when our windows and doors suddenly shook as we heard explosions outside”.
Scores of firefighters were already on the scene before the explosion, responding to a fire.
The blasts were also visible from space – a Chinese agency released satellite photos of the area with the explosions showing as white spot.
China natural disaster Network Center announced on its official Weibo account that the force of the first blast, which shredded through a warehouse in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area at around 11:34 p.m., registered 2.3 in magnitude on the Richter scale, equivalent to the detonation of three tons of TNT.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Thursday promised the best medical treatment possible for those injured n Tianjin and wished them early recovery during her visit to hospitals, the Xinhua news agency reported.
“The volatility of the goods means the fire is especially unpredictable and risky to approach”, Xinhua added.
Officials said on Thursday that Tianjin port – the country’s fourth largest – was functioning normally.
“Many types of different materials with different characteristics are mixed together and could at any time result in a chemical reaction or explosion”, Zhou said.
Some pictures and posts about the blasts were deleted from social media by Chinese censors as authorities tried to control the narrative.
In one neighbourhood of Tianjin about 10 to 20km (6 to 12 miles) from the blast site, some residents were sleeping on the street wearing gas masks, although there was no perceptible problem with the air apart from massive clouds of smoke seen in the distance. “The streets are littered with broken glass and stones”. Shockwaves hit the building seconds later.
Zhou is said to be in a stable condition, state television reported, citing hospital doctors.
Meanwhile, over 200 military specialists in nuclear and biochemical materials were sent to test the air for toxic substances.
In 2013, a pipeline explosion at state-owned oil refiner Sinopec’s facility in the eastern port of Qingdao killed 62 people and injured 136.
The exact reason for the incident is still under investigation, but lawyers said warehouse company executives are likely to be accused of negligence in causing a serious accident, unless it is proved that the incident was a result of arson.