At least 50 people, including firefighters, are known to have died in the explosions in China's northern port city of Tianjin on Wednesday. A further 500 people were injured in the blasts that occurred around midnight in the Binhai New Area of the port city 120 kilometers east of Beijing.[Special coverage]
We offer our sincere condolences to the relatives of the dead and our respect to the firefighters who have risked their lives to bring the fire under control.
There were apparently two big explosions at a warehouse for storing hazardous goods followed by a series of smaller ones. The explosions caused a huge fireball and were so violent that residents several kilometers away said they thought it was an earthquake. According to the China Earthquake Networks Center, the magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of 3 tons of TNT being detonated, while the second was the equivalent of 21 tons.
It is not yet known what caused the blasts, but the senior managers of the company that owned the warehouse, Ruihai Logistics, are being questioned by authorities.
Just as the country's leaders required immediately after the incident, the fire was brought under control, and all-out efforts are being made to care for the injured. Now the cause of the accident must be investigated and those found responsible held accountable.
It goes without saying that handling all the consequences of such a serious accident will test the emergency management capabilities of the local government.
Apart from organizing the immediate response and taking care of the injured, it is no less important for the local government to keep not just local residents but also the entire country well informed about the incident and the results of the investigation into the cause in a timely manner.
Any attempt at a coverup or to mislead the public will only give rise to the rampant spread of rumors and conspiracy theories, and greatly damage the credibility of the local government.
Keeping transparent the investigation into the cause of the tragedy will help bring home the importance of following prescribed safety procedures, especially when handling dangerous materials.
And making public the results of the investigation will help other companies and local governments learn the necessary lessons to avoid a repeat of this tragedy.