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China orders probe into Tianjin blasts as toll mounts to 112

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Tianjin: Rescuers in special anti-toxic gear today began clearing hundreds of tonnes of highly-poisonous cyanide from the site of Wednesday’s two massive explosions here as hopes of finding more survivors of China’s deadliest industrial accident faded amid a mounting death toll of 112.

As Premier Li Keqiang visited area on Sunday, four days after the blasts, China ordered a probe to find any official negligence involving the company and the firefighters’ initial response.

Nearly 100 people, mostly firefighters, remain missing after the blasts at a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals unleashed fireballs strong enough to light up the night sky as cars and containers came raining down on panic-stricken residents in this major port city home to 15 million people.

Agitated family members of the missing have complained of an information blackout by the government, that also suspended or permanently closed 50 websites and 360 social media accounts for ‘spreading rumours’.

During his visit, Li met some of the firefighters as well the injured and reviewed the progress of relief operations. Meanwhile, China’s main prosecutor, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), said it has begun to investigate whether there is any dereliction of duty involved in the explosions.

As of today, no officials nor the company handling the warehouse of Ruihai International Logistics Co. Ltd, where the explosions took place on Wednesday, has been held accountable for the explosions, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The SPP will look into possible illegal acts, such as abuse of power or dereliction of duty and deal with those acts which may constitute crimes, it said. About 722 people have been hospitalised and the condition of 58 of them is said to be critical or serious. An Indian employee of a firm based here was injured and has been treated for non-lethal injuries, officials said.

The explosions were so powerful that only 24 of the 112 recovered bodies have been identified. Officials said fires have been put out and no further explosions were expected. As many as 85 firefighters and 10 other people are still missing since the blasts shook the area that has also claimed 112 lives so far.

Among the missing, 72 are stated to be firefighters who were among the first batch that rushed to put out the fire but got caught up in the two massive explosions that shattered the warehouse and neighbouring residential buildings.

Twenty-one firefighters, who were also among the first batch, were among those killed. The firefighters’ deaths is the highest so far in a tragedy in China’s recent history. As the 72 hours of golden period to save lives ended, rescuers focussed their attention mainly to clear the barrels of deadly cyanide amid growing fears about air and water contamination in this city, 115 kms from the capital Beijing.

PTI