TIANJIN, China — The death toll in twin warehouse blasts in Tianjin, China, rose to at least 50 people Thursday, including 12 firefighters, according to state media. Huge explosions in the warehouse district sent up massive fireballs that turned the night sky into day in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, officials and witnesses said Thursday.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said the two massive explosions that ripped through a warehouse facility in one of the world’s busiest ports in the city of Tianjin injured 700 people. About 71 people were hospitalized in critical condition.
According to Wang Xiaojie, head of the emergency department of Teda Hospital, many patients had glass or shrapnel cuts, or skull injuries and fractures, Xinhua reported.
Tianjin, with a population of 15 million, is located about 90 miles southeast of Beijing.
The first blast, which occurred around 11:30 p.m. local time Wednesday night, was equivalent to that caused by 3 tons of TNT.
The second explosion, triggered by the first fire, was equivalent to 21 tons of explosive material, the National Earthquake Bureau said.
A State-level rescue team against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (NBC weapons) from Beijing left for Tianjin at 11:00 am on Thursday to help detect the fire, treat the injured, handle the hazardous chemicals, and maintain the order. The team consists of 214 officers and soldiers from Beijing military area.
A strong breeze blew through an open window of Florida native Drew Chovanc’s home in Tianjin, China, as he watched a movie with his girlfriend Wednesday night. They didn’t know it, but it was the first warning that powerful blasts had started erupting three miles away in the Chinese port city. Seconds later, a more devastating blast hit with such force that they thought they were experiencing an earthquake.
“It freaked us out, that’s for sure … it gave us quite a shock,” said 25-year-old Chovanec, who moved to Tianjin two years ago to work as an English teacher.
“There was a strong rumble and we were like, ‘What was that?’ And then the ‘boom’ came,” he said.
A total of 2,748 imported Volkswagen vehicles parked at a port adjoining the blasts scene were burned in Binhai New Area of Tianjin, China Business News reported on Thursday.
The damaged vehicles include 391 Beetles, 770 Multivans, 84 Ups, 114 Golf Variants, 28 Magotans, 39 Sports Vans, 257 Tiguan and 1,065 Touaregs.
Rescue teams detected high levels of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides as far as a half-mile from the scene, Xinhua reported.
A 217-member team of specialists in nuclear, biological and chemical materials was brought in to begin assessing and cleaning up toxic material, the agency reported.
The city has set up 17 monitoring stations for air, and another five for water. Three sewage outlets to the sea have been closed, said Wen Wurui, head of the city’s environmental protection bureau, at the press conference.
Courtesy: China Daily, USA Today, WP, NBC,