Tianjin blasts death toll rises to 114, 70 missing

2015-08-17 13:04Xinhua Editor: Gu Liping
Rescuers work at the explosion site in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Aug. 16, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)

Rescuers work at the explosion site in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Aug. 16, 2015. (Photo: Xinhua/Zheng Huansong)

The death toll from last week's massive blasts in north China's port city of Tianjin has risen to 114 after rescuers retrieved two more bodies in the debris, the municipal publicity department said Monday.[Special coverage]

Gong Jiansheng, of Tianjin's publicity department, told reporters that the identities of 54 of the bodies had been confirmed, adding that 70 people remained missing.

Of the deceased, 39 were firefighters and five were policemen. The number of the missing people was previously 95, before 25 bodies were identified.

Among the missing are 64 firemen, Gong said.

The civil affairs bureau in the Binhai New Area, where the blasts occurred, has started preparations to recognize those firefighters who died in the line of duty, said Wang Junjie, an official with the bureau.

"It's an arduous job to find out who died battling the blasts via DNA matching, since so many firefighters are still missing," Wang said.

Rescuers have carried out four rounds of comprehensive search through what they called "a maze of containers," and search and rescue efforts are still under way.

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

Two massive blasts, which happened before midnight on Aug. 12, have wreaked havoc on areas a few kilometers away.

The blasts have affected 17,000 households and 1,700 enterprises. At least 6,000 residents have been displaced. Soldiers are combing nearby residential quarters to search for survivors, and their search has covered 6,000 households so far.

A minor explosion occurred on Monday morning at the blasts site. Dark smoke has abated, but flames can still be seen.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of Tianjin's bureau of environmental protection, said about 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide stored at the blasts site remain mostly unaffected.

According to He Shushan, vice mayor of Tianjin, as of Monday night, specialists had searched dangerous chemicals scattered within a radius of three kilometers around the blast site's core area. "We have cleaned 150 to 160 tonnes of sodium cyanide."

Environmental authorities set up 27 additional water monitoring spots, three of which were found to contain excessive cyanide, with some samples containing 27.4 times more than the standard. Two of the original waste water monitoring stations also found samples with cyanide levels of 1.25 to 2.2 times the standard.

The city has ordered postal and courier services to stop delivering mail to the Binghai New Area.

As of Monday, 698 people remain in hospital, of whom 57 are in a critical condition, 77 have been discharged.

On hearing of the accident, many off-duty health workers rushed to the to assist their colleagues.

"As soon as I saw the flames, I knew we were in big trouble, and left home at once," recalled Li Qing, director of the nephrology department of TEDA Hospital.

Du Huan headed straight for the hospital after fleeing her apartment, which was just a few hundred meters away from the blast site, along with her husband, daughter and mother-in-law.

Despite her husband suffering a leg injury and her 15-month-old baby sustaining shrapnel wounds, the chief nurse got straight to work.

Du said the firemen were the true heroes.

"Their will really impressed me. The seriously wounded firefighters could speak but there were no moans. They just lay there blinking, waiting quietly."


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