Two huge explosions caused by flammable products took place on Wednesday night in an industrial area of Tianjin, a large city in northeast China, killing at least 44 people (including 12 firefighters) and more than 520 injured, 66 in critical condition, according to a provisional toll issued by the state media. Most of the injured were hit by flying glass and debris, which were projected up to 3 kilometers away.
A fire caused by the blast was about to be mastered at dawn. Among the more than 1,000 firefighters sent to the scene, 36 were missing, reports the newspaper Beijing News .
The blasts, which occurred at 30 second intervals to 23 h 30 local time, triggered a shockwave felt several kilometers away. They were so big they could be observed from space by satellites.The first was held in a warehouse where explosives were stored and projected flaming debris, triggering a second explosion much stronger. According to Xinhua news agency, the first explosion corresponded to the equivalent of 3 tons of TNT, the second to 21 tons.
In testimony collected by telephone by The World, Wu Di, who works and resides in the Binhai new area surrounding the port where the blast took place, said:
“I was staying late at work. My apartment is 5 or 6 kilometers from the place of the explosion. Even in my office, which is still a little further, I had the impression that it just happened next door.
I first heard a thud and then the whole building shook. I thought it was an earthquake. My apartment, located in the development zone, is really damaged. Metal doors are distorted. The windows were shattered. We are no longer allowed to enter. ”
Most of the injured were hit by flying glass and debris, which were projected up to 3 kilometers away.
According to local police, the warehouse where the fire took place belongs to the company Ruihai Logistics. The state media reported that several company executives were arrested. The President Xi Jinping called to make “every effort to help the victims and put out the fire”. He also promised severe punishment if breaches were discovered.
Tianjin, which lies 140 km southeast of Beijing, is one of the largest cities in the country with nearly 15 million inhabitants, and the tenth trading port in the world. It is one of only four cities in the country to have obtained provincial status with Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing.
Compliance with safety standards in industrial complexes in China remains problematic, the owners do not respect the regulations to save costs and preferring to pay corrupt inspectors to avoid too sharp controls.
In July, 15 people were killed and over a dozen others injured in the explosion of an illegal site storage of fireworks in Hebei Province in northern China. In August 2014, 71 people were killed in the explosion of a spare parts factory in Kunshan cars near Shanghai. In 2013, an explosion was 13 dead and 20 missing in an explosives factory.