Emotions run high in Tianjin as victims of blast demand answers from Chinese authorities

Credit: Lucy Watson

It is difficult to imagine where and how a clean-up begins when you see the scale of destruction in Tiajin’s industrial zone.

That area was ripped apart by two huge explosions on 12 August. Residents described it shaking the ground like an earthquake. They were right, it measured between 2 and 3 on the Richter scale.

Bin Jang who lives 1.5km from the blast site told me he broke his arm after the first explosion when he and his wife dived to hide under their bed. After the second they fled the building immediately, running barefoot across broken glass such was their haste to escape.

Their home was torn apart.

They cannot go back inside because it’s too dangerous and they have nowhere else to live. They’re demanding compensation from the government. They had no idea before last Wednesday night that such a dangerous factory was near their apartment.

Many people in Tianjin are not only homeless but angry, at a lack of information from the authorities about the chemicals and the fumes they’re inhaling since the disaster.

Such discontent with officials means the man in charge of monitoring the chemicals and air quality in the area - Bao Jingling - is under pressure, but he told ITV News today that both are at “standard, safe levels.”

We spent all day in Tianjin and were told to wear gas masks for the entire time. The air was pungent and you could taste chemicals when you swallowed. His response when I told him of our experience was, "That’s your feeling, not my feeling.” He had no other explanation, and was ushered away as reporters hounded him with questions.

Around the disaster area, 3000 tonnes of toxic chemicals have now been found, and the warehouse storing the hazardous material allegedly didn't have a licence to store them until just a few weeks before the explosions.

We got access to one of the buildings just 200 metres from that core area. The devastation was staggering. The impact of the blast to the construction we entered was like that of missiles. There were giant holes in the concrete, doors were ripped off hinges, every window was smashed and stairways were littered with glass.

The whole area does indeed look like a war zone; 114 people died here, 70 are still missing and emotions will continue to run high until the full truth is known.