Huge explosions in Chinese city of Tianjin leave 44 dead, missing firefighters
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At least 520 people were injured, 60 of them seriously, said the government of Tianjin in his microblog Weibo, and the People's Daily newspaper said four fires were still burning.
The explosions on Wednesday night, so great that they were seen by satellites in space, sent shockwaves that shook apartment blocks kilometers away in the port city of 15 million people.
Internet videos show massive fireballs that rose to the sky and the United States Geological Survey recorded the explosion as seismic events.
Vast areas of the largest in the world-the tenth port were devastated, wrinkled containers were thrown as matchboxes, hundreds of new vehicles caught fire and burned buildings were like shells, Reuters witnesses said.
"I was sleeping when our windows and doors shook and suddenly heard explosions outside. At first I thought it was an earthquake," he told Reuters by telephone Guan Xiang, who lives seven kilometers away from the blast site.
Guan, 24, said he saw the flames and a mushroom-shaped cloud in the sky as he and other residents rushed out of the building.
Tianjin authorities said 12 firefighters were among the 44 dead.
The cause of the explosions was unknown, but industrial accidents are common in China after three decades of rapid economic growth. An explosion in a vehicle parts factory in eastern Afghanistan left 75 people dead a year ago.
Tianjin authorities said earlier they had lost contact with 36 firefighters, and another 33 were among the hundreds of people being treated in nearby hospitals, according quotations released by the state-run newspaper Beijing News.
The official Xinhua news agency said 1,000 troops and more than 140 fire trucks struggled to contain a fire in a warehouse containing "dangerous goods".
"Volatility of commodities mean the fire is especially unpredictable and dangerous approach," Xinhua said.
President of China, Xi Jinping, asked that authorities "make full efforts to rescue and treat the injured and ensure the safety of people and their property".
City officials had recently met with companies to discuss a reinforcement of security standards for handling hazardous chemicals.