1 rescued from blast site in China amid contamination fears

1 rescued from blast site in China amid contamination fears

A man was rescued alive today from the site of the powerful blasts that tore through a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals killing 50 people here in one of China's worst industrial disasters as hundreds of firefighters battled to find survivors amid fears of contaminated air.

The survivor, who was pulled out 32 hours after the twin explosions shattered the economic hub, was identified as a 19-year-old firefighter named Zhou Ti who belongs to the Binhai New Area brigade of Tianjin's fire department.

More than 1,020 firefighters and 140 fire engines have been deployed to douse the fire, said Zhou Tian, head of Tianjin's fire department at a press conference today.
Thick smoke billowed from the blast site as most of the fire had been doused.

"When the blast occurred, several firefighters were working to put out the fire, and backup forces had just arrived. They were caught off guard, so the casualties are grave," Zhou said.

He did not specify the number of missing firemen. However, Beijing News reported that 36 fire fighters are still missing.

"Forces from all sides are searching for the missing firefighters," he said.The enormous blasts, which occurred late Wednesday night, have killed 50 people, including 17 firefighters. A total of 701 were injured, of whom 70 remain in critical condition.

State-run CCTV reported the senior management of Ruihai International Logistics had been detained by authorities. Meanwhile, the dangerous chemicals stored in the warehouses that exploded in China's Tianjin Port cannot be determined at the moment, Chinese officials said.

Gao Huaiyou, deputy director of Tianjin's work safety watchdog, cited major discrepancies between the accounts of company management and customs and damage to the company's office as reasons they are unable to identify the chemicals.
Cargo is stored in a warehouse for no more than 40 days before being transferred elsewhere, Gao told media.

The environmental organisation Greenpeace Beijing expressed concerns over the health risks posed by certain chemicals after the two massive explosions rocked the area.
Greenpeace, citing information from Tianjin Tanggu Environmental Monitoring Station, said the company also stored calcium carbide in addition to the chemicals reported.
It warned that chemicals are highly toxic and can present health threats both with short and long-term exposure.

Greenpeace also warned that rain could transfer air-borne pollutants into water systems as rain was forecast for the city today.  Yesterday, the Chinese army had deployed 217 military specialists in nuclear and biochemical materials to Tianjin following explosions to deal with foul air as the warehouse where two explosions took place stored dangerous chemicals, cyanide and combustible materials.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Beijing Military Area Command team, led by Deputy General Chief of Staff Wang Zhengrong went to Tianjin to study the conditions.
Their deployment followed reports that the air in the Tianjin and surrounding areas has become foul with chemical smell after the explosions.

The military team first tested the air around the site for toxic gases.
"According to our preliminary detection efforts, we suggested that rescue teams move upwind," Du Jiang, political commissar of the team told state-run Xinhua news agency.
There is a thick smoke in the area and there are concerns that it may contain poisonous substance.

Rescue teams that are working near the centre of the blast site have been ordered to wear heavy protective suits. Standing about 1 km away from the site, a pungent smell is heavy in the air and people have complained of stinging eye, according to a report in the state-run Xinhua news agency said. There were also rumours that the foul air may spread to Beijing which is abut 115 km away from Tianjin.

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