People demand compensation as Tianjin death toll hits 114

After the blasts in China, 698 people remain in hospital, 57 in critical condition

A resident affected by the explosions that hit a nearby chemical warehouse last week cries as she joins a protest outside the hotel where authorities are holding a press conferences in Tianjin on Monday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A resident affected by the explosions that hit a nearby chemical warehouse last week cries as she joins a protest outside the hotel where authorities are holding a press conferences in Tianjin on Monday. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Hundreds of residents displaced by huge explosions last week in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin took to the streets to demand compensation, as the death toll from the devastating blasts rose to 114.

Emergency workers continued to scour the blast site, the state news agency Xinhua reported. The explosion left a huge crater at its heart, surrounded by melted containers and burned-out cars.

More than 700 people were injured in the explosions, which were centred on a warehouse storing hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide. The warehouse was just 500 metres from residential housing, much less than the legally required kilometre radius around areas where dangerous chemicals are stored.

This was the focus of residents’ anger as they gathered outside the Mayfair Hotel, where government press conferences have been taking place. They want compensation and are angry over the way the warehouses were too close to their homes.

The death toll from the two blasts which took place before midnight on August 12th, rose to 114. Of these 39 were firefighters and five were police, while 70 people were still missing, 64 of them firemen.

“Navigating through the blast zone is extremely dangerous because of the burning chemicals and twisted containers, which could collapse at any time. We had to make marks in order not to get lost,” Wang Ke, who led a group of chemical specialist soldiers, told Xinhua.

Sodium cyanide

Bao Jingling

As of Monday, 698 people remained in hospital, of whom 57 were in critical condition.

The clean-up is a major operation, as the explosions have affected 17,000 households and 1,700 companies. At least 6,000 residents have been displaced. Soldiers are combing nearby residential quarters to search for survivors, and their search has covered 6,000 households so far.

The government has kept a lid on a number of websites criticising the official role in the explosions, but is aware that there is a general public desire for more information about what happened.

Reporting on Chinese disasters has become a lot more open in recent years, compared to 20 years ago when there was little information made public. The Tangshan earthquake in 1976, which killed hundreds of thousands, was barely reported in China.

Speaking on Sunday, public security minister Guo Shengkun ordered authorities to release information concerning the Tianjin blasts and the rescue operation in a timely and transparent manner, to respond to public concerns, Xinhua reported.