4 new fires erupt in Tian­jin port dis­as­ter area

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Four new fires burned Fri­day within a dis­as­ter zone in China’s Tian­jin port where mas­sive ware­house ex­plo­sions more than a week ago killed at least 114 peo­ple and con­tam­i­nated the area with toxic chem­i­cals.

The fires were spot­ted in a car park­ing lot and at three other lo­ca­tions within a 3- kilo­me­ter (1.8-mile) evac­u­ated area, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency said. It did not give more de­tails, but the state-run Le­gal Evening News said fire­fight­ers put out the fire in the park­ing lot and that cleanup work in the dis­as­ter zone soon re­sumed.

Tech­ni­cians have de­tected lev­els of cyanide as much as 356 times the safe level within the evac­u­ated zone, although no ab­nor­mal con­tam­i­na­tion was found out­side the zone, ac­cord­ing to state media re­ports.

Work­ers in pro­tec­tive suits have started clear­ing wreck­age, in­clud­ing charred car bod­ies and crum­pled ship­ping con­tain­ers, from the area of chem­i­cal ware­houses that ex­ploded Aug. 12. Xin­hua said ex­ca­vat­ing equip­ment was be­ing used to clear the site, and trucks were car­ry­ing out de­bris.

Of­fi­cials have or­dered na­tion­wide checks on dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als. Driv­ing home the im­por­tance of such ef­forts, main­land Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping and other top lead­ers gath­ered in Bei­jing to hear a re­port on progress in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dis­as­ter.

“Lately, in some places there have been ma­jor in­dus­trial safety ac­ci­dents, one af­ter the other, re­veal­ing yet again that prob­lems in the area of in­dus­trial safety re­main prom­i­nent and grave,” said a state­ment is­sued af­ter the meet­ing Thurs­day.

Sus­pi­cions that of­fi­cial cor­rup­tion con­trib­uted to the dis­as­ter were un­der­lined in rev­e­la­tions Wed­nes­day in a Xin­hua ar­ti­cle that the two silent own­ers used their con­nec­tions with po­lice, fire, port and work­place safety of­fi­cials to se­cure ap­proval for their com­pany, Rui­hai In­ter­na­tional Lo­gis­tics, to op­er­ate ware­houses for haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als.

The Rui­hai own­ers were able to se­cure per­mits to store toxic chem­i­cals, in­clud­ing sodium cyanide, am­mo­nium ni­trate and potas­sium ni­trate, even though their fa­cil­ity is lo­cated less than the re­quired 1,000 me­ters from homes and public roads — a clear vi­o­la­tion of state safety rules.

An As­so­ci­ated Press re­view of cor­po­rate doc­u­ments found that the prin­ci­pal owner, Yu Xuewei, also was a board mem­ber of a state-owned com­pany that op­er­ates haz­mat ware­houses that have sim­i­larly been ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing the 1,000-me­ter rule. The sta­te­owned com­pany’s par­ent, Sinochem, has dis­avowed any con­nec­tion with Rui­hai.

AP

Sol­diers from a Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army chem­i­cal-de­fense unit work to neu­tral­ize sodium cyanide residue on the charred cars af­ter the mas­sive ex­plo­sions at a port in Tian­jin Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Thurs­day, Aug. 20.

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