Rain on China blast city raises pollution fears

2015-08-18 12:13

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tianjin - Rain fell on Tuesday on the remains of a Chinese industrial site devastated by giant explosions, complicating clean-up efforts and heightening fears about toxic contamination as ceremonies were held to mark the disaster's 114 deaths.

Around 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide were at the site in the northern port of Tianjin, officials say, and water could disperse it more widely.

It could also disperse chemical residues on the ground into the air when it evaporates, and some of the many substances on the scene could react with it.

Officials have insisted the city's air and water are safe, but locals and victims' relatives have voiced scepticism, while international environment group Greenpeace has also urged transparency.

Central nervous systems

Out of 40 water testing points, eight showed excess levels of cyanide on Monday, all within the cordoned-off area and the highest 28.4 times official standards, said Bao Jingling, chief engineer at the Tianjin environmental protection bureau.

The chemical had been detected at another 21 points, he added.

Authorities have built a dam of sand and earth around the blasts' central 100 000m2 "core area" to prevent pollutant leakage, Bao said, and drained water from pits and pipelines to make space for the rain.

Sodium cyanide, which has a variety of industrial uses including gold mining, is a toxic white crystal or powder. It can release hydrogen cyanide gas, used in gas chamber executions in the US.

Acute exposure at lower concentrations can still cause weakness, nausea and eye and skin irritation while chronic exposure can affect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Excessive levels of cyanide

"We are paying high attention on the rain forecast for the coming couple of days," Bao told reporters.

"We are making plans for the treatment of tens of thousands of tonnes of polluted water in the pit in the core area."

The air would be "closely monitored" at 18 testing points, and if excessive levels of cyanide or organic compounds were detected the public would be alerted promptly, he promised.

At ceremonies in the city, officials and personnel in military uniforms bowed their heads to commemorate the dead, who numbered 114 by Tuesday, with 57 missing and 31 bodies not yet identified.

Sirens sounded across displays of white flowers - the colour of mourning in China. The seventh day after a death, including the day itself, is a traditional occasion to mark the demise.

Outside the hotel where officials have been holding press conferences, a group of about a dozen homeowners seeking government compensation for their properties held yellow flowers.

"Some innocent people died in this explosion," said one man, a university teacher who declined to give his name. "We feel very sorry."

The protesters held a banner grieving for dead police, and signs with photos of their damaged residences reading: "Give back our homes!"

At the bottom, they read: "Respect for the souls of the brave departed," with images of three burning candles.

Read more on:    china  |  environment  |  pollution

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.