Last Wednesday, a series of explosions caused massive destruction in Tianjin, China, and left over a hundred dead. Now, days later, levels of deadly cyanide pollution are sky-high and many people have been displaced after their homes in the area were destroyed. Over 70 people, including some firefighters, are still reported as missing. As the public and local media blame the government for its poor response to the disaster, the answers are few and far between.

On Wednesday, August 12, several explosions rocked the city, leaving 114 dead and countless injured. The blasts took place in quick succession at a large industrial site on the outskirts of the port city, which is situated about 75 miles east of Beijing. A fire led to the first explosion, and a second larger blast occurred shortly after, shaking the city as much as 21 tons of TNT would do. Since then, wastewater monitoring stations have detected alarming rates of sodium cyanide, which is among the most rapidly acting of cyanide salts. A dose as small as 200-300 mg is enough to be fatal, and surface wastewater at the blast site is registering as high as 27 times the acceptable limits.

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Drone footage shows the extent of the devastation in the smoldering rubble, including shipping containers squashed like soda cans. The site of the explosion was said to be used for storing the deadly cyanide, which is now posing a threat to the public as it seeps into the surface water. Officials are promising a complete cleanup on a short time line. He Shushan, Tianjin’s deputy mayor, said “all sodium cyanide within 3km of the blast zone would “be collected and neutralized before Monday evening.” Given concerns about how the emergency has been managed in the previous days, the public is skeptical about that pledge.

China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, visited Tianjin on Sunday and promised a full investigation of the blast and its aftermath, saying “We owe families of victims, Tianjin people and all Chinese an answer.”

Via The Guardian

Images via Japan Times and China Daily