China Blast Toll Rises to 44 Dead and 520 Injured – TIME

The death toll from Wednesday’s massive explosion in the Chinese city of Tianjin continues to rise, with at least 44 people dead and 520 others hospitalized, of which 66 are in critical condition, China’s Xinhua news agency reported Thursday afternoon.

Several of the dead are reportedly firefighters, and rescue operations have been temporarily suspended while chemical teams scan the area for harmful materials, Xinhua added.

The city in China’s northeast—located 150 km from the capital Beijing—was rocked by two massive explosions late Wednesday night, with videos released soon after the incident showing a massive fireball rising high into the air above a warehouse as well as a person killed by debris when the explosion shattered the glass wall he was approaching.

Additional footage released Thursday morning showed the charred remains of hundreds of parked cars, completely destroyed by the blasts.

Local police said the blast, at one of many warehouses in the city’s port district of Binhai, occurred at around 11.30 p.m. local time. It triggered another larger blast 30 minutes later that was the equivalent of 21 tons of TNT, the New York Times reported. According to the Times, the warehouse belonged to Rui Hai International Logistics, a company that transports and handles hazardous cargo.

A local resident with last name Xu, who lives in the Haigangcheng locality about a kilometer away from the blast site, told TIME he was watching TV at home when the explosion threw him to the ground in what he assumed at the time was an earthquake. Shortly after he and his family rushed out into the open and smelled the scorched air, he said, pieces of glass and other debris began raining from the sky.

Many people cut by the showers of glass went to the Taida Medical Center, the hospital closest to the site and the one to which most of the injured have been taken.

Police, meanwhile, have set up check points 3 kilometers away from the blast site and are not allowing anyone to enter.

With reporting from Gu Yongqiang/Tianjin

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