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China blasts death toll 112 and likely to rise as scores of fire fighters missing

An aerial picture shows smoke rising from the debris among shipping containers at the site of Wednesday night's explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
An aerial picture shows smoke rising from the debris among shipping containers at the site of Wednesday night’s explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Casualties from the massive explosions in China’s port of Tianjin has risen to 112 and 95 people, are missing, state media said on Sunday, suggesting that the toll may rise significantly.
More than 720 people remained in hospital four days after Wednesday’s disaster, which sent massive fireballs into the sky, resulted to an unbearable inferno, burning a vast industrial zone, crumpled cars and shipping containers, consumed many buildings and shattered windows of nearby apartments.
the Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged authorities to improve safety and learn lessons paid for with blood.
To prevent more casualty, China evacuated residents who had taken refuge in a school near the site of the blasts on Saturday after a change in wind direction which prompted fear that toxic chemical particles could be blown inland.
the number of people evacuated from the area was not made known, but the order came as a fire broke out again at the blast site, a warehouse specially designed to store dangerous chemicals, according to Xinhua.
Officials acknowledged the presence of toxins but said they posed no risk to people outside the evacuation zone.
“I can responsibly say that there will be no secondary damage to the people,” Shi Luze, the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region, told reporters, referring to people outside the zone.
Shi confirmed the presence of more than 100 tons of deadly sodium cyanide, stored at two separate sites. He said workers are now making effort to clear the area of chemicals before possible rain showers, which could create toxic gas.
Greenpeace in an emailed said its tests around the blast site showed that local water supplies were not severely contaminated with cyanide, but that they did not “disprove the presence of other hazardous chemicals in the water”.
In an earlier statement, Greenpeace urged the government to still establish a five-km (three-mile) evacuation zone.
Some 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts. Shock-waves were felt by residents in apartment blocks kilometers away in the city of 15 million people.
About 100 people from a residential area near the blast site protested outside a hotel where a government press briefing was held, angry that dangerous chemicals had been stored near their homes.
A worker in the chemical industry, Zhang Yinbao, whose apartment is only 800 meters from the blast site said he fears that these dangerous chemicals will harm his health.
“The government has said they won’t have a big impact, but we have no way to know for sure,” Zhang said, calling for a thorough investigation and compensation.
About three dozen grieved family members of missing fire fighters marched to district government offices where they were dispersed by police after scuffles.
According to information received from state media, 85 of the 95 missing people are fire fighters.
After Wednesday’s blasts, fire crews were criticized for using water to douse flames which may have contributed to the blasts given the volatile nature of the chemicals involved.
Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China following three decades of fast growth. A blast at an auto parts factory killed 75 people a year ago.

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