Tianjin, China is now recovering from an explosion in its port on Thursday. The explosion was so strong that even residents miles away from the site felt it and thought there was an earthquake. The death toll has since risen to 50 people; 12 of whom were firefighters, over 700 more were injured and 71 are in serious condition.
Authorities say that there were two explosions, which devastated the area around them. Fireballs shot into the sky, leveling numerous warehouses and residential areas. The search through the wreckage has begun, though there has not been a number given for how many people are missing.
So far, no cause for the blast has been found, though firefighting on-scene was halted to allow for a chemical team to inspect the origin and make sure there were no other hazardous materials posing a threat.
More than 16 hours after the blasts, as the sun rose over Tianjin, it was apparent just how bad the town was destroyed. Smoke still hovered in the air, but destruction was clear: leveled homes, shattered glass, building collapses, just to name a few. There were also numerous shipping containers throughout the surrounding area, moved with the force of the explosions.
“We haven’t got any formal announcement from local government,” local resident Tang Lei told NBC News. “All the information we got so far is from media or friends who are working in the field.”
“I felt the ground shaking and my door was making a big noise,” he said. “I thought it was an earthquake. Then I went to the window and saw a very huge cloud about [over one mile] from my house. Several minutes later, the second explosion happened and we could feel it very strongly. The cloud was as high as a 20-floor building.”
The origin of the blasts were two shipping containers sitting in a warehouse by the port, waiting for transport. The warehouse is owned by Ruihai Logistics, and there are numerous types of hazardous chemicals, such as flammable petrochemicals, sodium cyanide, and toluene diisocyanate. The manager of that company has been taken into custody by local police. The company was not abiding by the proper packaging standards when it was inspected by safety officials two years ago. The blasts were likely caused by the same malpractice.
Witnesses described the force of the blasts; the first of which was equivalent to three tons of TNT, the second of which was equal to 21 tons.
“At first I felt quakes on the bed and then I heard wind rushing into my room, my windows exploded. The door was shaking,” Wendy Zhou, a 26-year-old primary school teacher, relayed to NBC News. She was more than six miles away from the explosions.
“It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,” truck driver Zhao Zhencheng, who slept in the cab of his truck after the blasts, told the Associated Press. “I’ve never even thought I’d see such a thing. It was terrifying, but also beautiful.”
The air is also a concern in the area, since the blasts left traces of numerous chemicals in the air, surpassing national limits. Other than this data and witness accounts, there is not a lot to go on at this time. True to China’s history, they are keeping a lid on much of the information surrounding the tragedy.