Saturday, August 15, 2015

Residents evacuated as death toll rises in Tianjin blasts

Residents near the site of two giant explosions in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin were being evacuated on Saturday over fears of toxic contamination, the official Xinhua news agency said.

According to the Beijing News, armed police began carrying out the evacuations after sodium cyanide was found at the site, days after the blasts killed 85 people and triggered a fire authorities were still struggling to contain.

"Out of consideration for toxic substances spreading, the masses nearby have been asked to evacuate," Xinhua said.

Reports conflicted as to whether the evacuation zone extended to two or three kilometres (1.25 or 2 miles) from the site.

Xinhua said the blaze intensified at around 11:40 am (0340 GMT), adding that several explosions were heard in the area, but did not give details on what may have caused them.

The initial giant explosions had sparked concerns among locals who fear being cloaked in a toxic cloud, and residents and victims' relatives have railed against officials for keeping them in the dark about the scale of the incident.

China has a dismal industrial safety record and the disaster has raised fears of toxic contamination after officials said they were unable to identify precisely what chemicals were at the site at the time.

Personnel from sodium cyanide producers had been called in to the site as they had expertise to deal with the chemical, an official said earlier Saturday.

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