SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Two massive explosions caused by flammable goods ripped through an industrial area in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin late on Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring around 400, official Chinese media reported.
President Xi Jinping demanded that authorities quickly extinguish the fire caused by the blasts and “make full effort to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property”, China Central Television (CCTV) said on its official microblog.
CCTV said the blasts erupted in a shipment of explosives at around 11:30 p.m. local time (11.30 a.m. EDT), triggering a blast wave that was felt kilometers (miles) away. The second blast came roughly 30 seconds after the first, state media said.
The official People’s Daily newspaper said the death toll was 17 while other state media said three firefighters were among the dead. The official Xinhua news agency said around 400 were hurt.
Video posted on YouTube from what appeared to be an apartment building some distance from the scene showed fire shooting into the night sky from the initial blast when the second, much bigger, explosion rocked the area, sending a huge fireball into the air.
Seconds later, shockwaves hit the apartment building, causing panic among the occupants inside. here
Pictures posted on Chinese media websites showed a cloud of dust towering above buildings near the scene. Residents and workers, some bleeding, could be seen fleeing.
Canadian teacher Monica Andrews told the BBC that she awoke in panic after what she thought was an earthquake.
“I ... looked out the window and the sky was red ... I just watched a second explosion go off and (it was) just pure chaos, everyone leaving their apartment buildings thinking it’s an earthquake, cars trying to leave the complex and ... it was crazy the amount of light that this explosion and fire lit up,” she said.
Xinhua said the explosions had ripped through a warehouse storing “dangerous goods”. The first explosion was equivalent to 3 tonnes of TNT and the second blast 21 tonnes of TNT, it said.
Residents in nearby areas said the blasts had shattered windows in buildings, it reported.
Citing a local hospital, Xinhua said people had been hurt by broken glass and stones and some were seriously wounded.
CCTV said on its website about 100 fire trucks had been sent to the scene.
Tianjin is home to around 15 million people, making it one of the biggest cities in China. It is also home to one of the country’s biggest ports.
Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China following three decades of breakneck economic growth. A blast at an auto parts factory in eastern China killed 75 people a year ago when a room filled with metal dust exploded.
Reporting by Kazunori Takada and Michael Martina; Writing by Dean Yates; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan