China Port Explosions Release Deadly Chemical, Prompting Fear and Outrage

The death toll from this week’s fiery explosions at the Chinese port of Tianjin climbed above 100 on Saturday, while confusion spread over whether authorities had ordered the evacuation of everyone within two miles amid fears of chemical contamination.

According to news reports, an evacuation order came after an apparent change in wind direction, and as police confirmed the highly toxic chemical sodium cyanide was found near the site of successive blasts that were so big they were seen from space.

Anti-chemical warfare troops have entered the site, according to the BBC.

Reuters reports:


The Associated Press adds:

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And the New York Times writes that “Orders for a large-scale evacuation of the neighborhoods closest to the blast were quickly rescinded, underscoring the government’s halting efforts to cope with one of China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years.”

“The company that owned the warehouse where the blasts originated, Rui Hai International Logistics, appears to have violated Chinese law by operating close to apartment buildings and worker dormitories,” journalist Andrew Jacobs reports for the Times. “Residents say they were unaware that the company was handling dangerous materials.”

About 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts, with around 721 injured and 33 in serious condition, Xinhua news agency said. At least 21 firefighters are reported dead. 

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