Death Toll From Chinese Port Blasts Hits 85, Including 21 Firefighters
Searchers on Friday night uncovered more bodies in the warehouse district of Tianjin, China, state media reported, raising the death toll to 85 from Wednesday night's series of explosions.
The count includes 21 of the more than 1,000 firefighters who responded to the fire and blasts, according to The Associated Press.
Tianjin Fire Department head Zhou Tian said at a news conference Friday that the explosions occurred just as reinforcements had arrived on the scene and were just getting to work."There was no chance to escape, and that's why the casualties were so severe," the fire head said. "We're now doing all we can to rescue the missing."
NPR's Robert Siegel spoke Friday with David Leggett, a consultant on hazardous chemical risk assessments, about the chemicals involved in the explosion and the ongoing risks they might pose.
"There are three chemicals that are confirmed: calcium carbide, potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate. And those three together if left alone and not in the presence of fire are relatively stable. "However, in the presence of a fire — a very big fire, as we believe there was — the first thing that probably happens is that the containers of the calcium carbide probably start to fail; at the same time one can expect to see that the water supplies in the warehouse may be beginning to fail. And if we get calcium carbide — especially if it's hot — mixed with water, we form a very, very flammable and highly explosive gas called acetylene."
Leggett said Chinese authorities — unlike their U.S. counterparts — may have lacked thorough documentation of the chemicals moving through the country's transit facilities, and that the detection of sodium cyanide in a nearby sewer could be concerning.
"Depending upon the amount of sodium cyanide that is there, I would be concerned about the residues of sodium cyanide that may have been distributed across the area, and how that cleanup will be managed," he says.
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