BEIJING – A series of huge explosions shook the northern Chinese city of Tianjin late Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring more than 300, according to officials and state media.
The cause was not immediately clear.
Liu Yue, a 25-year-old Tianjin resident, said she felt the first blast but didn’t think too much of it.
“The second explosion was so powerful that I felt the entire 16-floor-building was shaking,” said Liu, who lives about 4 kilometers (2Â½ miles) from the site of the blasts. “I thought it was an earthquake! I was extremely scared. I was afraid my family was in danger.”
The initial explosion erupted at a warehouse for a logistics company in an industrial area of the port city, according to Tianjin police. The company was identified as Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd.
The state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the explosion tore through a warehouse storing “dangerous and chemical goods” in Binhai, an area of the city by the water.
Video from the scene showed a blinding blast of light and smoke that sent fireballs shooting across the night sky. That was followed by an even bigger explosion, the force of which appeared to knock over the video camera.
The shock waves were felt kilometers away, Xinhua reported, and some residents said windows and fish tanks had been shattered.
The state-run China Earthquake Networks Center said in an official post on social media that two of the explosions had carried the force of small earthquakes. The first was measured at magnitude of 2.3, the second at 2.9, it said.
As day broke Thursday, the extent of the damage was beginning to become clear. State media carried images of damaged buildings and parking lots full of rows of burned-out cars.
The People’s Daily and CCTV, China’s state-owned broadcaster, reported that 17 people were killed. CCTV and Xinhua said that more than 400 people were injured, while the People’s Daily said some 315 were hurt, 32 of them critically.Xinhua had reported earlier that most of the injuries were from stones or broken glass.
The injured were taken to different hospitals in the city, and people gathered outside, waiting for news of loved ones.
Many roads were blocked off around the city, which has a population of more than 13 million.
The firefighting division of the Chinese Public Security Ministry said firefighters were first called to the scene about a fire. An explosion happened after they arrived and it damaged buildings and infrastructure. Four firefighters were injured and two more have lost contact, according to the ministry.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have called for “all-out efforts” to save the injured and minimize casualties, Xinhua reported. Li also promised a full investigation of the incident. – CNN