50 people killed and more than 700 were hospitalized, 71 of them for serious injuries. Contact lost with 36 firefighters, 12 of the 44 killed were firefighters – BBC latest.
As Chinese rescue workers and emergency services raced to respond to the deadly explosions that rocked the port city of Tianjin Wednesday, another group of Chinese officials, with a very different purpose also sprang into action: the country’s censors and security officials intent on limiting coverage of the disaster by conventional media outlets and social media. Authorities in Tianjin have been attempting to tightly control information about the disaster. Journalists and nonessential personnel were being kept six miles away from the scene of the blasts, the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition, a CNN correspondent reporting live from outside a hospital was seen being accosted by security officials live on air. In the video below [the confrontation starts around 1:48] reporter Will Ripley is confronted by several men, demanding that he end his broadcast, and shouting “stop recording” in Chinese. His feed is then cut, and the studio anchor comments that such incidents have “happened many times over the years in any number of stories in China.” In addition, local Chinese outlets reportedly had trouble being able to report on the incident. One journalist who took photographs inside a Tianjin hospital was threatened by security guards and told to delete the images, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. Local station Tianjin Television was reportedly airing a Korean soap opera 8 hours after the incident, as reporters waited for permission to start covering the story. Media censorship of this kind is not new in China, particularly when it comes to coverage of national disasters. After a 2011 train crash that left 39 people dead and over 200 injured, propaganda directives issued by Chinese authorities leaked online, which showed that reporters were warned not to run investigative reports or commentary, but rather focus on “stories that are extremely moving, for example people donating blood and taxi drivers not accepting fares,” the BBC reported. “From now on, the Wenzhou train accident should be reported along the theme of ‘major love in the face of major disaster’,” the directives added. The strategy ultimately backfired, prompting online anger from citizens who accused the authorities of “arrogance.” In the world of social media, users of Sina Weibo, China’s hugely popular version of Twitter, were reporting Thursday that some of their posts about the Tianjin disaster were being censored or deleted, according to the Associated Press. In addition, the number of searchable posts on the disaster fluctuated, in a sign that authorities were manipulating or placing limits on the number of posts.
Thursday, 13 August, 2015 at 07:56 UTC RSOE
A series of huge explosions shook the northern Chinese city of Tianjin late Wednesday, killing at least 44 people and injuring hundreds more, according to officials and state media. The cause was not immediately clear. Liu Yue, a 25-year-old Tianjin resident, said she felt the first blast but didn’t think too much of it. “The second explosion was so powerful that I felt the entire 16-floor-building was shaking,” said Liu, who lives about 4 kilometers (21 miles) from the site of the blasts. “I thought it was an earthquake! I was extremely scared. I was afraid my family was in danger.” The initial explosion erupted at a warehouse for a logistics company in an industrial area of the port city, according to Tianjin police. The company was identified as Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd. The state-run news agency Xinhua reported that an explosion tore through a warehouse storing “dangerous and chemical goods” in Binhai, an area of the city by the water. The firefighting division of the Chinese Public Security Ministry said firefighters were first called to the scene about a fire. An explosion went off after they arrived, it said. As smoke continued to billow into the sky from the site Thursday, local authorities suspended firefighting efforts at the scene because of a lack of information on the “dangerous goods” that were stored at the warehouse, Xinhua reported. Xinhua reported Thursday that 12 firefighters were among the dead and that dozens more remained unaccounted for in the aftermath of the blasts. Video from late Wednesday showed a blinding blast of light and smoke that sent fireballs shooting across the night sky. That was followed by an even bigger explosion, the force of which appeared to knock over the video camera. The shock waves were felt kilometers away, Xinhua reported, and some residents said windows and fish tanks had been shattered. The state-run China Earthquake Networks Center said in an official post on social media that two of the explosions had carried the force of small earthquakes. The first was measured at magnitude of 2.3, the second at 2.9, it said. As day broke Thursday, the extent of the damage was beginning to become clear. State media carried images of damaged buildings and parking lots full of rows of burned-out cars. Xinhua said that 44 people were killed and more than 500 were hospitalized, 66 of them for critical injuries. It had reported earlier that most of the injuries were from stones or broken glass.
Thursday, 13 August, 2015 at 07:07 UTC RSOE
Two massive explosions caused by flammable goods ripped through an industrial area in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin late on Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring as many as 400, official Chinese media reported. Authorities had lost contact with 36 firefighters on the scene, the official Beijing News newspaper reported, citing the Tianjin fire department. The force of the explosions unnerved residents across much of the city of 15 million people, with some posting videos on the Internet that showed giant fireballs shooting into the sky and shock waves buffeting apartment blocks and cars. Fires were still burning after dawn, with photographs on Chinese news websites showing what appeared to be several destroyed buildings as well as torched cars at a multi-storey car park inside a logistics base at Tianjin Port. The port, one of the busiest in China, was operating normally, a port official said. President Xi Jinping demanded that authorities quickly extinguish the fires and “make full effort to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property”, China Central Television (CCTV) said on its official microblog. CCTV said the blasts erupted in a shipment of explosives at around 11:30 p.m. local time (1530 GMT), triggering a shockwave that was felt kilometres (miles) away. The second blast came roughly 30 seconds after the first, state media said. Video posted on YouTube from what appeared to be an apartment building some distance from the scene showed fire shooting into the night sky from the initial blast when the second, much bigger, explosion rocked the area, sending a huge fireball into the air. Seconds later, shockwaves hit the apartment building. “Our building is shaking. Is this an atomic bomb?” said a frenzied voice inside. In other amateur video which appears to be shot closer to the scene, people scream from inside a car as the shockwave hits from the second blast, rocking their vehicle. The official People’s Daily newspaper said the death toll was 17 while other state media said six firefighters were among the dead. The official Xinhua news agency gave varying estimates of between 300 and 400 injured, with 32 critically hurt. Xinhua said the explosions ripped through a warehouse storing “dangerous goods”. The first explosion was equivalent to 3 tonnes of TNT and the second blast 21 tonnes of TNT, it said. It identified the owner of the warehouse as Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics. The company’s website said it was a government-approved firm specialising in handling “dangerous goods”. Company officials could not immediately be reached for comment. anadian teacher Monica Andrews told the BBC that she awoke in panic after what she thought was an earthquake. “I … looked out the window and the sky was red … I just watched a second explosion go off and (it was) just pure chaos, everyone leaving their apartment buildings thinking it’s an earthquake, cars trying to leave the complex and … it was crazy the amount of light that this explosion and fire lit up,” she said. Pictures posted on Chinese media websites also showed residents and workers, some bleeding, fleeing from near the scene. Citing a local hospital, Xinhua said people had been hurt by broken glass and stones. CCTV said on its website about 100 fire trucks had been sent to the scene. Several fire trucks had been destroyed and nearby firefighters wept as they worked to extinguish flames, the Beijing News said. Tianjin is home to around 15 million people, making it one of the biggest cities in China. Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China following three decades of breakneck economic growth. A blast at an auto parts factory in eastern China killed 75 people a year ago when a room filled with metal dust exploded.
Thursday, 13 August, 2015 at 04:27 UTC RSOE
Massive, deadly explosions have erupted in the major Chinese port city of Tianjin, sending a fireball and mushroom cloud into the night sky and causing at least 17 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The explosions ripped through a warehouse storing hazardous goods near the port’s container terminal at around 11.30pm local time on Wednesday. The two biggest blasts occurred within 30 seconds of each other and caused extensive damage in the surrounding area, blowing out the glass on nearby high-rise buildings. The force of the blasts were felt kilometres away and registered on earthquake scales. Eyewitness videos, apparently taken from nearby apartments overlooking the area, quickly circulated on Chinese social media, some capturing a major blast, which sent a mushroom cloud tens of metres into the sky. Hundreds of injured people crowded into nearby hospitals, many arriving on foot, car and taxi overwhelming emergency services. Of the more than 400 report injured, at least 32 remained in a critical condition on Thursday morning. In one video of the explosion on Weibo, people can be heard reacting with shock and fear in Mandarin. “What about the people in that area?” one person can be heard saying as they watch the fire, before a major explosion occurs. Another voice can be heard saying “I’m scared to death”, before a woman exclaims “I can’t open the door”. Another video being circulated, purporting to be security camera footage from near the blast, shows a man standing inside a building in front of glass doors, before an explosion blows the doors and walls inwards, knocking the man to the ground. The city’s fire department first received reports at 10:50 pm about a fire at the warehouse, used by Ruihai International Logistics, a company that handles hazardous materials. Two firefighters were reported missing after the explosions, while another four were injured, it said. The precise nature of the materials that exploded was not made clear, and there was no indication whether the blast was accidental or intentional. The strength of the explosions also shattered windows of nearby buildings, and eyewitnesses reported feeling the blasts from kilometres away. The blasts were so massive they were reportedly visible from space, captured by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari 8.
Thursday, 13 August, 2015 at 03:04 (03:04 AM) UTC RSOE
China explosion: Tianjin death toll rises in port blasts
At least 44 people are known to have died, and more than 500 injured, following two major explosions in China’s northern port city of Tianjin.
Twelve firefighters are among those who lost their lives; 36 are still missing.
The blasts happened in a warehouse for hazardous chemicals and caused a huge fireball that could be seen from space.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed with people seeking treatment for injuries caused by flying glass and debris. Some 66 people are in a serious condition.
President Xi Jinping has promised a thorough investigation into what happened and “transparent information disclosure to the public,” Xinhua news agency reports.
The first explosion occurred at about 23:30 local time (15:30 GMT) on Wednesday in the city’s Binhai New Area, a vast industrial zone which houses car factories, aircraft assembly lines and other manufacturing and research firms.
The blast was followed seconds later by another, more powerful blast, and a series of smaller explosions.
Buildings within a 2km radius (1.5 miles) had windows blown out, office blocks were destroyed and hundreds of cars burnt-out.
The impact of the blasts could be felt several kilometres away, and was registered as seismic activity at a US Geological Survey monitoring unit in Beijing 160km (100 miles) away.
The China Earthquake Networks Centre said the magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of detonating three tonnes of TNT, while the second was the equivalent of 21 tonnes.
“I saw fire burning and then: Boom! There was an explosion. My first reaction was to run as fast as I could and get down on the ground to save my life,” Wu Dejun, 38, a hairstylist, told Reuters.
“When I escaped, I had blood all over me.”
“It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,” truck driver Zhao Zhencheng told the AP news agency. “I’ve never even thought I’d see such a thing. It was terrifying, but also beautiful.”
The blast ripped apart a nearby dormitory for migrant workers, who were forced to flee the collapsing building.
“I rolled off the bed after the first shockwave hit, so I scrambled to run for my life,” said resident Dan Agio.
“When I reach downstairs the second blast happened. It’s as if the sky collapsed. In a blink of an eye, the roof fell.”
As of 12:00 local time (04:00 GMT), 44 people had died and a total of 520 people were being treated in hospital, Xinhua reported.
Around 1,000 firefighters, along with 140 fire engines, spent the night tackling the flames.
A number were reportedly already on the scene at the time of the explosions, having been called out to earlier reports of a fire in the area.
There was an outpouring of support for them on social media as it became apparent that they were among the dead, injured and missing.
Hospitals struggled to cope as residents rushed there to be treated for injuries or for news of missing loved ones.
Many without injuries responded for calls to donate blood, and long queues formed outside blood donation centres.
Chinese media has reported that the blasts happened after a shipment of explosives detonated in a warehouse owned by Ruihai Logistics, a company that specialises in handling dangerous and toxic chemicals.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said at least one person from the “relevant company” had been detained for questioning.
There has been some criticism in Chinese media that a warehouse containing such dangerous chemicals should have been sited near a main road, housing complexes and office blocks.
Tianjin, home to some 15 million people, is a major port and industrial area to the south-east of the Chinese capital, Beijing.
Tests are being undertaken to check pollution levels both in the air and water around Tianjin. Tanker traffic in and out of the port has been disrupted.
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