.Thousands Of Cars Also Burnt –
The massive explosions in China’s northern city of Tianjin are now known to have killed at least 50 people.
More than 700 have been injured and hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of casualties. The blasts, at a warehouse storing toxic chemicals, destroyed tower blocks and burned out thousands of cars. The fireball could be seen from space.
Twelve firefighters are among those who lost their lives; 36 of their colleagues are still missing.
President Xi Jinping has promised a thorough investigation into what happened and “transparent information disclosure to the public,” Xinhua news agency reports.
The head of Tianjin’s environmental protection bureau, Wen Wurui, said pollution levels were being monitored.
“It would be harmful if you breathe in [this toxic air] for a long time,” he said.
“But at present, it has not exceeded [the standard] too much based on our monitoring.”
The first explosion occurred at about 23:30 local time (15:30 GMT) on Wednesday in Tianjin’s Binhai New Area, a vast industrial zone which houses car factories, aircraft assembly lines and other manufacturing and research firms.
The blast was followed seconds later by another, more powerful blast, and a series of smaller explosions. Buildings within a 2km radius (1.5 miles) had windows blown out and office blocks were destroyed.
The impact of the blasts could be felt several kilometres away, and was detected by a US Geological Survey monitoring unit in Beijing 160km (100 miles) away.
The China Earthquake Networks Centre said the magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of detonating three tonnes of TNT, while the second was the equivalent of 21 tonnes.