China blasts death toll rises to 112

The death toll from several blasts that hit China’s eastern port city of Tianjin rises to 112 as authorities continue to say toxins near blast area pose no risk to people outside the evacuation zone.

TIANJIN, CHINA (AUGUST 16, 2015) (REUTERS) – The death toll from massive explosions in China’s port of Tianjin has risen to 112, government officials said during a news conference on Sunday, suggesting the toll will rise significantly.

More than 720 people remained in hospital four days after Wednesday night’s (August 12) disaster, which sent massive yellow and orange fireballs into the sky, rained burning debris on to a vast industrial zone, crumpled cars and shipping containers, burnt out buildings and shattered windows of nearby apartments.

“As of 9 AM (GMT 0100) August 16, a total of 112 bodies have been found. We have confirmed the identities of 24 of them. We are still in the midst of identifying 88 of the bodies,” said Gong Jiansheng, deputy head of the Tianjin publicity department.

China evacuated residents who had taken refuge in a school near the site of the blasts on Saturday after a change in wind direction prompted fears that toxic chemical particles could be blown inland.

It was not clear from media reports how many people were evacuated, but the order came as a fire broke out again at the blast site, a warehouse specially designed to store dangerous chemicals, according to Xinhua.

Officials acknowledged the presence of toxins but said they posed no risk to people outside the evacuation zone.

“Right now, within the range of several under hundred metres, other than ammonia, which has surpassed readings of one milligram, the others all come within standard readings. If you are outside of the two kilometres (radius), these numbers should be within the normal standards. This should not have any effect on people’s lives,” said Shi Luze, the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region, told reporters, referring to people outside the zone.

Shi confirmed the presence of more than 100 tons of deadly sodium cyanide, stored at two separate sites. He said workers were trying to clear the area of chemicals before possible rain showers, which could create toxic gas.

Some 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts. Shockwaves were felt by residents in apartment blocks kilometres away in the city of 15 million people.

After Wednesday’s (August 12) blasts, fire crews were criticised for using water to douse flames which may have contributed to the blasts given the volatile nature of the chemicals involved.

President Xi Jinping on Saturday (August 15) urged authorities to improve safety and learn lessons paid for with blood.

Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China following three decades of fast growth. A blast at an auto parts factory killed 75 people a year ago.