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Explosions in China Kill At Least 50 People

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Smoke continues to rise hours after two explosions at a warehouse in Tianjin, China, August 12.
Smoke continues to rise hours after two explosions at a warehouse in Tianjin, China, August 12.

A large explosion in the Chinese port city of Tianjin has killed at least 50 people and injured at least 700 more. Officials and state media said Thursday at least 12 of those who died were firefighters.

The first explosion took place just after 11:30 p.m. local time Wednesday. A second, larger explosion followed 30 seconds later. The explosions were so large they were seen by satellites in space.

It is still unknown what caused the explosions. Chinese state media said they happened at a warehouse owned by Rui Hai International Logistics.

More than 12 hours after the explosions, firefighters were still battling fires. Police said there was a risk of more explosions. There were also worries about the fumes released from chemical fires.

Shattered homes

The nearby Jinyu Lanwan apartment complex has more than 10 high-rise buildings. The shockwave from the explosions broke most windows in the buildings. Glass covered the ground outside.

Nearby, one young migrant worker sat on the ground with friends. Like many, he said he thought the explosion was an earthquake. He said, "I saw a bright light and heard the blast and quickly started to run outside."

He said he does not know where he will work next. For now, he plans to go back home to Shandong province.

Migrant workers employed at nearby businesses may be some of the worst affected by the destruction. By late Thursday local time, there were still no exact numbers on how many people may be missing.

Smoke still rising

Behind the Jinyu Lanwan apartment complex, police blocked a street that leads to the area where the explosions occurred.

Huge clouds of smoke continued to rise more than 12 hours after the explosions.

VOA reporters spoke to a truck driver surnamed Zhang. He was trying to drive his car home from near the explosion site. He talked about how he and other drivers were able to escape unharmed.

When the blast occurred, Zhang said he just ran. "It's all a blur to me now, when everyone else ran, I just followed everyone else, we ran in one direction and then back around again without thinking."

Cause under investigation

The cause of the explosions was being investigated but state media said several containers caught fire beforehand.

Tianjin city officials had met recently with port companies to discuss increasing safety rules on the handling of dangerous chemicals. The Tianjin Administration of Work Safety posted a notice about the meeting on its website a week ago.

Tianjin is about 150 kilometers southeast of Beijing. It is China's fourth largest city and the world's 10th largest port city.

I'm Ashley Thomspon.

VOA correspondent William Ide reported this story from Beijing, China. Ashley Thompson wrote it for Learning English, with additional materials from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

warehouse - n. a large building used for storing goods

fumes - n. smoke or gas that smells unpleasant

high-rise - n. very tall: having many floors or stories

blast - n. a powerful explosion

blur - n. something that you cannot see clearly - usually singular

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