The death toll from the Tianjin port explosions has risen to 158 people, with 15 people still unaccounted for, the Associated Press reported citing local authorities.
According to Tianjin’s government officials, the casualties were predominantly firefighters, a total of 94, who were rushed to the scene to contain the fires following the blasts, 11 policemen and 53 civilians.
The two huge explosions took place in a warehouse, operated by Ruihai International Logistics Co., located in the port district in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin on August 12th, and were equivalent to 3 tonnes of TNT and 21 tonnes of TNT respectively.
The explosion resulted in dangerously high contamination of the area with cyanide as China’s Port of Tianjin is a major base for petrochemicals, where dangerous chemicals and goods are stored.
The blast site has been hit with several fires on several locations with the blast site following the explosion, including the latest one reported on Monday by Tianjin Daily. As informed, the fire broke our after rain came in contact with magnesium and sodium and was a normal chemical reaction.
The causes of the explosions are not yet known, but initial reports point to a foul play as there are indications that port officials were involved in neglect of duty and abuse of power.
Namely, within the framework of the ongoing investigation China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has detained 12 people suspected of being responsible for the tragedy, including Yu Xuewei, chairman of Tianjin International Ruihai Logistics, the company’s vice-chairman Dong Shexuan, and one employee of a safety evaluation team who is suspected of illegally aiding Ruihai International to receive safety evaluation papers. The detained men are all suspected of illegal storage of dangerous materials, MPS said.
Fitch Ratings believes that the insured losses from the explosions at Tianjin could exceed USD 1bn-1.5bn, making the blasts one of the most costly catastrophe claims for the Chinese insurance sector in the last few years.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are monitoring vessel traffic and cargo departing the port complex in Tianjin, China, following the tragic explosions on August 12th and 15th, 2015, due to concerns over possible chemical contamination on vessels or cargo bound for U.S. ports.
Vessels impacted by the Tianjin explosions are expected to call on U.S. ports over the next several weeks, a joint bulletin said.
According to the USCG, given the substantial size of the explosions and the suspected hazardous chemicals that were involved, ships and cargo in port at or near the times of the explosions may have been exposed to potentially hazardous dust, ash, or debris.
As informed, there have been no reports of vessels with confirmed hazardous debris or residues onboard. However, U.S. companies are looking for reassurances regarding the health and safety of those who handle shipping containers across the supply chain.
“The Federal government is working with local, state and federal port and international partners to coordinate efforts to identify any potential risks on inbound vessels and cargo to help ensure public safety,” the statement reads.
The USCG said that owners and operators of US-bound vessels should assess their ship and cargo for potentially hazardous residues, especially those that had cargo bays or hatch covers open when the blasts occurred and any cargo or containers that were likewise exposed during the explosions.
In addition, the Coast Guard urged owners and operators to report an ill person on board or an unknown substance or hazardous ash, debris or residue as these may be indicative of a hazardous condition and should be reported.