Sodium cyanide traces found in waters near China blasts site

Last Updated 17 August 2015, 10:46 IST

Minute traces of sodium cyanide have been found in waters near China's Tianjin port indicating that it has spread to the sea, even as experts raced against time to clear the area of toxic chemicals stored at a warehouse ravaged by blasts that killed at least 114 people.

Minute traces of cyanide have been detected in waters near the Tianjin port, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said acknowledging that it was spreading into the waters of the port which is on the western shore of the Bohai Bay.

The findings were based on monitoring reports from yesterday, according to the SOA. The detected density of the dangerous chemical was below the normal standard and does not pose a threat to the marine environment for the time being, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of Tianjin's bureau of environmental protection, said about 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide stored at the blasts site remains mostly unaffected.

Sodium cyanide is a highly toxic white, water-soluble powder that prevents the body from using oxygen. The death toll from the massive blasts last week rose to 114 after rescuers found two more bodies in the debris, Gong Jiansheng of Tianjin's publicity department told reporters.

Identities of 54 bodies have been confirmed, he said, adding that another 70 people are still missing. Among the bodies, 39 were firefighters and five were policemen. The number of missing people was previously 95, before 25 bodies were identified. Among the missing are 64 firemen, Gong said.

Rescuers have carried out four rounds of comprehensive search through what they called "a maze of containers" and search and rescue efforts are still underway.

"Navigating through the blasts 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, said.

Two massive blasts before midnight on August 12 wreaked havoc in areas a few kilometres away. The blasts have affected 17,000 households and 1,700 enterprises. 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. As of today, 698 people remained in hospital, of whom 57 are in a critical condition.

More than 4,000 medical staff are treating the injured and 77 people have been discharged from hospitals. Meanwhile, a minor explosion occurred today at the blasts site hampering rescue operations.

(Published 17 August 2015, 10:46 IST)

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