Tianjin air, water quality monitored; Death toll now at 114

World Today

In this Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015 file photo, firefighters in protective gear watch as smoke continues to billow out after an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China’s Tianjin municipality. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

Rescue work in Tianjin, China, continued nearly six days after a chemical fire and two enormous explosions took the lives of 114 people. An additional 70 people are still missing, most of whom are firefighters. Authorities have also identified 54 of the dead, while anxious family members continue to await further notice.

Among the dead were 39 firefighters and five policemen, the People’s Daily newspaper reported.

Rescuers have made four comprehensive search efforts through what they call “a maze of containers”, as they continued to search.

“Navigating through the blast zone is extremely dangerous, because of the burning chemicals and twisted containers, which could collapse at any minute. We had to make marks in order not to get lost,” said Wang Ke, who led a group of chemical specialist soldiers.

As of Monday local time, a total of 698 people remained in hospital, of whom 57 were in critical condition.

A minor explosion occurred at 9:20 a.m. Monday local time at the blast site, in the Binhai New Area. Dark smoke has abated, but flames can still be seen.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of the city’s bureau of environmental protection, said about 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide were stored at the blast site and they remain intact.

The blasts have affected 17,000 households and 1,700 enterprises. More than 6,000 people have been forced into temporary shelters or are staying with friends and family.


According to the latest news from the Tianjin Port Group, production at the Tianjin Port has basically resumed.


The monitoring results show that benzene and the organic compound indicators are within the standard range, the air quality is normal, according to a recent observation of the chemical emergency rescue team.

All sodium cyanide within the 3-kilometer radius of the core blast zone will be collected and neutralized before Monday evening, said He Shushan, Tianjin deputy mayor who is in charge of work safety, at a press conference.


Containers storing several hundred tons of sodium cyanide have been located by authorities at two places, said Shi Luze, chief of staff of Beijing Military Region, on Sunday. Some of the exposed sodium cyanide from exploded containers is being controlled with hydrogen peroxide and other solutions and the intact containers will soon be collected and transported to safe places.

One of the 17 air quality monitoring stations detected hydrogen cyanide exceeding normal level by 0.08 percent on Sunday, said Bao Jingling, chief engineer of the Tianjin Environment Protection Bureau, at Monday’s press conference. An additional 27 sites to monitor water quality have also been set up to detect cyanide, said Bao.

The city saw thundershowers Monday but meteorological experts said the rainfall wouldn’t pose any direct danger to human health, as it had been in the days immediately after the blasts.

However, if the rain dissolves cyanide particles on the ground, underground water and soil will be contaminated.

A total of 17 wastewater discharge monitoring stations have detected cyanide, with three in precautionary area exceeding the standard. One monitoring stations recorded cyanide exceeding the level by 27.4 times, while other two saw it exceed by 4.37 times and 0.96 times respectively, said Bao.

Six monitoring sections, 13 stations were set up in the seawater near Tianjin port. A total of 194 samples of water have been collected.

Two of these stations have detected trace of cyanide in the seawater at the Gangchi Area at Tianjin Port. The largest concentration is 0.00156mg/L, which is lower than the first-class seawater quality standard (0.005mg/L).

The current concentration of cyanide in seawater won’t have an impact on the marine ecological environment, according to the recent news released by the official website of State Oceanic Administration Monday.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang travelled to the blast site on Sunday afternoon and urged 24-hour environmental monitoring with timely release of information.

The Premier lauded the efforts of firefighters and soldiers and paid his respects to firefighters who perished on the job, and called for fair compensation for their families. A moment of silence was observed in memory of the dead.

[flagallery gid=161]

At a temporary hall of mourning set up near the scene of the blasts for firefighters who died during the rescue work, Li paid tribute and bowed three times to pictures of the victims.

“The departed firefighters, no matter if they were armed soldiers or contract workers paid by local companies, must be treated equally with the same burial treatment, honor and compensation,” he said.


Most firefighters in China are soldiers on active service, although some nonofficial firefighters are hired by companies at terms less favorable than those offered to the official workers.

Among the 85 firefighters missing, at least 73 are contract workers employed by Tianjin Port Co Ltd. They acted as a sort of auxiliary firefighting force that did not enjoy the official perks and job security of the national firefighting team, which is itself an adjunct of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police.

Li also met with authorities to discuss the next steps in the operation. He stressed the need to take care of all locals who’ve been displaced and promised that the government will cover all medical fees for those injured.

He also said environmental index figures must be released accurately, quickly and transparently to assure the public.

“We have to assure the public, not only by words, but with facts and statistics,” he said.

The State department has set up an investigation team that includes members from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate — the highest agency for prosecution and investigation — and has pledged to hold all those responsible to account. The procuratorate is looking into whether abuse of power or dereliction of duty, were involved in the blasts.

Experts said that the location of the Ruihai International Logistics warehouse, which was at the center of the deadly explosions in Tianjin on Wednesday night, had breached China’s national safety standards.

As per Chinese regulations on businesses dealing with dangerous chemicals, a medium or large warehouse should be at least 1,000 meters away from public buildings, arterial roads and industrial and mining enterprises.

However, the 46,000-square-meter warehouse, which stored a range of deadly chemicals like sodium cyanide and potassium nitrate, was only 500 meters away from a railway line and 600 meters from residential buildings.

“The location of the warehouse severely violates our national standards on environmental risk appraisal and production safety, and also breaches a regulation that important facilities should be located far away from hazardous chemicals,” said Jin Lei, Deputy Secretary General of China Association for Disaster Prevention.

Around 90,000 people were living within a 5-kilometer radius of the blasts site. The residential buildings were built in 2010, one year before the warehouse facility was given approval.

Locals told CCTV News that they were never informed that their apartments were right next to a warehouse packed with dangerous chemicals.

A Saturday commentary published by the newspaper affiliated to the top anti-graft watchdog said industrial tragedies revealed loopholes in China’s law enforcement, urban planning and supervision, as it went on to question why several communities of over 5,600 households were located within 1,000 meters of the warehouse for dangerous chemicals.

“Until the moment of the explosions, the communities’ developers and residents did not know they had lived right beside a ‘volcano’,” the commentary said.

“The sputtering flames engulfed not only lives and property, but also the sense of security,” it said. “It again called public attentions to the question of ‘how to guarantee people’s lives and property’.”

On Monday the Tianhe-1a supercomputer, the world’s fastest computer, resumed service. It was shut down following the explosions about a mile away. The shutdown had disrupted data service to users including Tianjin municipality’s finance, commerce and meteorological departments, said Zhang Guihua, deputy director of the Information and Industry Commission at the Binhai New Area.

Story compiled with information form CCTV News, AP, People’s Daily, China Daily, Xinhua.

Jean-Paul Rodrigue on Tianjin recovery
For more on the disaster, recovery efforts and the impact on the region’s economy, CCTV’s Michelle Makori spoke to Jean-Paul Rodrigue live from New York, a professor of Global Studies & Geography at Hofstra University.

Jean-Paul Rodrigue on Tianjin recovery

For more on the disaster, recovery efforts and the impact on the region's economy, CCTV's Michelle Makori spoke to Jean-Paul Rodrigue live from New York, a professor of Global Studies & Geography at Hofstra University.