Friday, 14 August 2015

China blasts: Tianjin explosions death toll reaches 55, relatives looking for the missing

Chinese rescue teams say they have located a survivor more than 30 hours after the city of Tianjin was rocked by a devastating chemical explosion that killed at least 55 people and has forced thousands from their homes.

Rescuers discovered a 19-year-old firefighter – named as Zhou Ti – at 7.05am on Friday morning, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.

Zhou was taken to Tianjin’s Teda hospital and is in a stable condition, according to The Paper, a Shanghai-based news website.

The discovery offered a rare glimmer of hope as authorities battled to help those left injured or homeless when a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals caught fire and exploded on Wednesday sending a mushroom cloud rising into the night sky.

With acrid black smoke still billowing from the disaster zone, more than 1,020 firefighters continued to battle “raging” fires in the area, Zhou Tian, Tianjin’s fire chief, told Xinhua on Friday.

The official death toll rose to 55 after five more bodies were found, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

As the body count rose, displaced residents took shelter in the homes of relatives or in makeshift government camps set up in local primary schools. At least 6,000 people were expected in such shelters on Thursday night, a local official said.

By Friday morning, around 200 volunteers and family members looking for lost relatives were milling around outside the primary school opposite the GSK Glaxo Smith Kline Tianjin headquarters.

At the front of the gate, volunteers had erected a tent where they were maintaining long lists and posters featuring the names, descriptions and contact details of some of the missing.

“We have a group on WeChat where volunteers circulate the names of the missing and inform each other if anyone has been found” Xie said.

Asked why the government wasn’t doing this work, Xie said: “They’re focussing on the explosion. That’s more important than this. They don’t have extra energy to deal with this as well.

“Of course this is important too, but while they direct their energy to that, common people like us can offer our help in this way.”

Relatives of Tianjin residents missing after the blasts hold up information about their loved ones. At the Vantone Central Park – which is around 2km from the scene of the disaster – signs of the blast were everywhere.

The glass façade of the Jingcheng Real Estate company had been completely shattered. From a fourth-floor apartment a man peered down from a pane-less window at a carpet of glass.

A bright red banner hanging at the heart of the compound read: “It is everyone’s duty to report crimes involving guns and explosives.”

“Look at this damage – it’s like an earthquake hit,” said Zhang, who said her relatives had fled with their young child following the explosion. “I’ve come because they’re still too scared to come back,” she said. “Young children can’t really comprehend these kinds of things.”

Others were refusing to leave the area around the blast site, despite government calls to evacuate and fears that volatile chemicals could trigger secondary explosions.

Authorities admitted they had still not been able to determine which chemicals were being stored in the warehouse at the time of the disaster, blaming “major discrepancies” in company and customs records.

Liu Yandon, a top Communist party leader, visited Tianjin on Friday morning and ordered officials there to provide the best possible medical care to the wounded, especially the 71 people reported to be in a critical condition. Liu said psychological support and counselling should be offered to families of the dead and injured as well as rescue workers.

Friday 14 August 2015


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