Tianjin, China Explosion Area Evacuated over Sodium Cyanide Fears

Authorities ordered the evacuation of a 1.8-mile zone around the city of Tianjin Saturday as fresh explosions were heard and fires continued to rage – and new photos emerged of the devastated site.

The death toll from Wednesday’s huge blasts, at a warehouse storing hazardous materials, has reached 85, including 21 firefighters.

Police have, for the first time, confirmed the presence of deadly sodium cyanide – fatal when ingested or inhaled – the state-run Beijing News said.

Police and military staff were deployed at checkpoints leading to the explosion site, and helicopters were hovering above.

Burning flames were still visible on Saturday, and new smaller explosions – thought to be from burning cars – have been reported by witnesses and state media.

“I do feel a bit afraid,” said construction worker Li Shulan, 49, when asked about the air quality. “It definitely doesn’t feel good. As you can see our boss is making us wear masks.”

A retired environmental official told reporters that air pollution posed no risk. “At the moment, the (air pollution) does not pose much danger to those in the vicinity,” said Bao Jingling, a former engineer with the city’s environmental protection bureau.

Harmful substances could not be detected in the air from 17 monitors placed around the city, said Bao.

About 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts, with around 721 injured and 33 in serious condition, Xinhua news agency said. Shockwaves from the explosions were felt by residents in apartment blocks miles kilometers away in the city of 15 million people.

About a dozen family members of missing firefighters tried to storm a news conference, angry at a lack of information about their loved ones.

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily