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Death toll rises to 104 from Tianjin blasts: local authorities

Updated: Aug 16,2015 9:42 AM     Xinhua

TIANJIN — Death toll from the massive warehouse explosions in north China’s Tianjin city on Aug 12 rose to 104, local authorities said in the night of Aug 15.

There are no deaths among 722 people who are hospitalized, including 58 in critical or serious condition, the rescue headquarters said.

A total of 46 people have been rescued by Aug 15, said Zhou Tian, head of the city’s fire department.

The latest rescued was a man in his fifties.

Specialized anti-chemical soldiers rescued him only 50 meters away from a burst point Aug 15 afternoon, two and a half days after two huge explosions at a warehouse for hazardous chemicals at about 11:30 pm on Aug 12 following a fire.

The man was conscious and could talk when rescued. He was immediately rushed to the hospital.

The man suffered from respiratory tract burn but was in a stable condition after emergency treatment, said Li Jingmei, a doctor from the No 254 hospital in Tianjin.

Seventy specialized anti-chemical soldiers in heavy uniforms entered the core area of the blasts site on Saturday morning to search for possible lives. Another 90 joined them to work in turns.

Meanwhile, another 1,100 troops were combing nearby residential quarters home by home to search for potential survivors.

Wen Wurui, head of the Tianjin municipal bureau of environmental protection, said environmental specialists are taking measures to prevent air and water pollution caused by chemicals leaked from the blasts.

Authorities have closed three sewage outlets to the sea and also used cement to block all drain outlets at the blast site to avoid pollution of waters outside the site, Wen said.

Other measures include the construction of cofferdams to prevent leaked chemicals from polluting farther when it rains, using hydrogen peroxide to reduce the amount of cyanide, and collection of sewage water at the blast site for special treatment.

Sodium cyanide, though highly toxic, is not volatile in normal conditions and only emit hydrogen cyanide into the air when meeting water, Wen said, adding dozens of stations are closely monitoring the quality of air and water.

Meanwhile, Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun said saving lives will remain the top priority even beyond the 72-hour golden period for rescue.

He urged rescuers not to give up on hopes, while leaving no single corner unchecked during the search and rescue mission.

Guo also urged a scrupulous plan to handle and clean up hazardous chemicals in a scientific way, so as to absolutely prevent any impacts on rescuers and nearby residents.

President Xi Jinping on Aug 15 urged authorities to learn from the “extremely profound” lessons paid for with blood.

Xi said in a written instruction that the Tianjin blasts and a string of serious accidents recently exposed severe problems in the work safety sector, and authorities must always keep “safe growth” and “people’s interest first” in mind to avoid such accidents.

Premier Li Keqiang urged authorities to take forceful and effective measures to rectify the weak link so as to formulate a long-term mechanism to avoid the repetition of accidents.

The State Council on Aug 15 called a national tele-conference to lay out work on a national safety inspection that will target industries related with dangerous chemicals, explosives, fireworks, elevators, non-coal mines, public transport and ports.