Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - Page 1 News List

At least 50 dead as huge blasts hit Tianjin, China

AP, TIANJIN, China

Smoke billows behind rows of burnt-out cars at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, China, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Huge, fiery blasts at a warehouse for hazardous chemicals killed at least 50 people and turned nearby buildings into skeletal shells in the Chinese port of Tianjin, raising questions yesterday about whether the materials had been properly stored.

Hundreds of people were injured in the explosions shortly before midnight on Wednesday, which sent out massive fireballs that turned the night sky into day and shattered windows several kilometers away.

Twelve of the dead were from among the more than 1,000 firefighters sent to the mostly industrial zone to fight the ensuing blaze.

“I thought it was an earthquake, so I rushed downstairs without my shoes on,” said Tianjin resident Zhang Siyu, whose home is several kilometers from the blast site. “Only once I was outside did I realize it was an explosion. There was the huge fireball in the sky with thick clouds. Everybody could see it.”

Zhang said she could see wounded people weeping, and although she did not see any dead bodies, “I could feel death.”

The Tianjin City Goverment said 701 people were injured, including 71 in serious condition. It gave no figure for the missing.

There was no indication of what caused the blasts, and no immediate sign of any toxic cloud in the air as firefighters brought the fire largely under control by morning.

However, the Tianjin government suspended further firefighting to allow a team of chemical experts to survey hazardous materials.

State media said senior company officials were detained, and that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) demanded severe punishment for anyone found responsible.

“It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,” said truck driver Zhao Zhencheng, who spent the night in the cab of his truck after the blasts. “I’ve never even thought I’d see such a thing. It was terrifying, but also beautiful.”

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and Straits Exchange Foundation expressed concern and offered help to Chinese authorities.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday extended its condolences over the blasts.

“We would like to express our regards and convey our sympathy to the victims of the blasts in Tianjin, which have led to hundreds of injuries and deaths,” DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said.

Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin

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