Tianjin: Explosion death toll rises to 50 as devastation is revealed

The explosion unleashed a fireball that ripped through the night sky shattering glass up to three kilometres from the blast site.

Naggaroth chan / YouTube

A SERIES OF enormous explosions at an industrial area in the Chinese port of Tianjin has killed at least 50 people, unleashing a fireball that ripped through the night sky.

The Associated Press reports that more than 700 people were injured and dozens reported missing after the explosions shortly before midnight last night, which demolished a workers’ dormitory.

The impact tossed shipping containers as if they were toy blocks and turned a fleet of 1,000 new cars into scorched metal husks.

Windows were shattered for miles around by the shockwaves.

China Port Explosion Ng Han Guan / PA WIre Ng Han Guan / PA WIre / PA WIre

There was no indication of what caused the disaster in one of China’s busiest ports, and authorities tried to keep a tight rein over information by keeping reporters well away from the site.

Social media users complained their posts about it were deleted.

While reporting from outside a hospital in the city, CNN’s Will Ripley was surrounded by angry locals who shouted “No foreigners!” and “Not right now, we’re still sad.”

David Vergel / YouTube

The explosion unleashed a fireball that ripped through the night sky shattering glass up to three kilometres from the blast site.

Images showed a monumental blast soaring into the air, walls of flame enveloping buildings, ranks of burned-out cars, and shipping containers scattered like children’s building blocks.

Paramedics stretchered the wounded into the city’s hospitals as doctors bandaged up victims, many of them covered in blood after the impact of the explosion was felt for several kilometres, even being picked up by a Japanese weather satellite.

China Explosion Associated Press Associated Press

“The fireball was huge, maybe as much as 100 metres tall,” said 27-year-old Huang Shiting, who lives close to the site.

“I heard the first explosion and everyone went outside, then there was a series of more explosions, windows shattered and a lot of people who were inside were hurt and came running out, bleeding,” he told AFP.

Scores of firefighters were already on the scene before the explosion, responding to reports of a fire, and at one city hospital a doctor wept over the remains of a firefighter still in uniform, his skin blackened from smoke, as he was wheeled past, along with two other bodies.

China Port Explosion Ng Han Guan Ng Han Guan

Plumes of smoke 

Plumes of smoke still billowed over buildings hours after the blast, which occurred shortly before midnight local time.

Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily said in a social media post that there were people trapped by the fire, but CCTV said efforts to put out the blaze had been suspended as it was not clear what dangerous items remained in the storage facility.

Specialised anti-chemical warfare troops were being sent to the site, the broadcaster added.

China Explosion Associated Press Associated Press

It was not clear what caused the shipment of explosives to detonate inside a storage container.

The magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of detonating three tonnes of TNT, the China Earthquake Networks Centre said on its verified Weibo account, followed by a second blast equal to 21 tonnes.

Police took into custody the head of the company involved, Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics, local authorities said.

President Xi Jinping has urged “all-out efforts to rescue victims and extinguish the fire”.

Tianjin, about 140 kilometres southeast of Beijing, is one of China’s biggest cities, with a population of nearly 15 million people.

Contains additional reporting by AFP and Dan Mac Guill.

Originally published: 7.31 am

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