China investigates Tianjin blasts, experts focus on chemicals stored at port

The blasts killed at least 50 people, including a dozen fire fighters, about 700 people were injured

Bakı. 14 August. REPORT.AZ/ Investigators searched for clues on Friday to identify what caused two huge explosions at a warehouse storing volatile chemicals at a busy port in northeast China, as foreign and local companies assessed the damage to their operations, Report informs citing Reuters.

The blasts in the city of Tianjin on Wednesday night killed at least 50 people, including a dozen fire fighters, state media said. About 700 people were injured, 71 seriously.

Rescuers pulled one survivor from the wreckage on Friday, a city official told reporters. Columns of smoke from fires still burning rose from the blast site amid the devastation of crumpled shipping containers, thousands of torched cars and port buildings reduced to burnt-out shells.

The warehouse, designed to house dangerous and toxic chemicals, was storing mainly ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate and calcium carbide at the time of the blasts, according to police.

Chemical safety experts said calcium carbide reacts with water to create acetylene, a highly explosive gas. An explosion could be caused if fire fighters sprayed the calcium carbide with water, they said.

The official Xinhua news agency has said several containers in the warehouse had caught fire before the blasts.

Lei Jinde, the deputy propaganda department head of China's fire department, a part of the Ministry of Public Security, told state-backed news website that the first group of fire fighters on the scene had used water.

"We knew there was calcium carbide inside but we didn't know whether it had already exploded," he said.

"At that point no one knew, it wasn't that the fire fighters were stupid," Lei said, adding that it was a large warehouse and they didn't know the exact location of the calcium carbide.

Xinhua has reported 18 firefighters remain missing, with 66 among the hundreds of people hospitalized.

David Leggett, a chemical safety expert based in California, told Reuters the acetylene explosion could have detonated the ammonium nitrate. The two blasts were about 30 seconds apart, the second much larger than the first.

"In my mind, the presence of ammonium nitrate makes it easier to explain the level of devastation," he said.

The explosions at the port, the world's 10th largest, were so big they were seen by satellites in space and registered on earthquake sensors.

A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency's Beijing environmental emergency response center, as well as 214 Chinese military nuclear and biochemical materials specialists, had gone to Tianjin, Xinhua said.

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