Chem­i­cal team faces daunt­ing job

China Daily (Canada) - - TIANJIN BLASTS - Zhu Xingxin RE­PORTER’S LOG

The public has paid great homage to the fire­fight­ers, 53 of whom had been con­firmed dead in the Aug 12 blasts as ofWed­nes­day. But another group of he­roes has also drawn in­creas­ing at­ten­tion— the chem­i­cal de­fense team from the PLA Bei­jing Mil­i­tary Area Com­mand.

Wear­ing fully pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and gas masks, mem­bers of the spe­cial force must ap­proach un­known sub­stances while other troops and pro­fes­sion­als stand back and await more ex­plicit in­for­ma­tion on the sub­stances.

Sixty-two hours af­ter the blast, team mem­bers found sur­vivorHan Fengqun be­tween con­tain­ers. He is now in sta­ble con­di­tion and is al­ready eat­ing.

Since Sun­day, I, as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist, have had the chance to en­ter the blast site with the team sev­eral times and wit­ness their ef­forts at the source of the ex­plo­sion.

Hun­dreds of cars are noth­ing but shells, con­tain­ers are scat­tered ev­ery­where, smoke con­tin­ues to rise, and the grass has turned yel­low— if not black.

I be­lieve what un­folded in front of me was like a wartorn ter­rain.

This is not a reg­u­lar bat­tle. In bat­tles, armies usu­ally know who the en­emy is, but the sol­diers bymy side were still try­ing their best to fig­ure out what they were deal­ing with.

At 7 amonWed­nes­day, I joined them again as they searched for dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals. How­ever, the mis­sion only lasted about half an hour be­fore it started rain­ing again and smoke arose.

We were im­me­di­ately asked to move to more than 100 me­ters away from the site since the chance of an ex­plo­sion sub­stan­tially in­creases if the chem­i­cals mix with wa­ter.

Right af­ter we started leav­ing, we heard two blasts be­hind us.

To be hon­est, I was scared. But LiWang, one of the sol­diers, said they had got­ten used to it, and he played down the dan­ger of the job.

“Our job is not that­mys­te­ri­ous. We are just spe­cially trained sol­diers deal­ing with chem­i­cals,” Li said.

How­ever, wear­ing their fully en­closed out­fit for even 10 min­utes is un­bear­able for most peo­ple— the tem­per­a­ture in­side them can top 50 C in the sum­mer. This is not even to men­tion the un­ex­pected and com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions they con­stantly have to face.

ByWed­nes­day, plenty of the sub­stances left in the con­tain­ers were still uniden­ti­fied and no sched­ule of the work had been given. So for now, the bat­tle con­tin­ues.

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