Chemical warfare troops are working to clear cyanide at the Tianjin blast site before it rains


A deadly chemical explosion in the Chinese city of Tianjin last week still poses a threat to locals with large quantities of cyanide found on the site and the possibility of rain looming, which could release more toxic gases into the air.

Dramatic footage of the explosions circulated online as the disaster unfolded, beginning at a chemicals warehouse and spreading to surrounding facilities.

Authorities, including military chemical warfare specialists, are working on removing more than 100 tonnes of sodium cyanide, which can be fatal within minutes of exposure through inhalation or skin contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports:

Shi Luze, the chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army’s Beijing Military Region, told reporters that army teams were working to remove more than 100 tonnes of deadly sodium cyanide, stored at two separate sites.

The blasts killed over 114 people at the latest count, according to the BBC, with 6,000 people displaced and 17,000 homes damaged. There are still at least 70 people missing, most of them firemen and emergency workers.

Residents held a protest in Tianjin on Sunday alleging that the chemicals should never have been stored so close to apartments, and calling for better support and compensation from the Chinese government.

“I’m very worried that these dangerous chemicals will harm my health,” Zhang Yinbao, who lives less than half a mile from the blast site, told ABC.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the site on Sunday and said the incident will be investigated, according to the government-run news service Xinhua.

According to the Guardian, the amount of cyanide stored at the site may have been 70 times what’s allowed on industrial sites of this size.

Local news sources including the People’s Daily said the company which owns the factory where the blast was triggered, Rui Hai International Logistics, may have also been illegally transporting chemicals.

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