LIVE: Huge explosion in Chinese port city of Tianjin

A residential complex badly damaged in the Tianjin explosions was located just 600 metres from a chemical storage warehouse at the centre of Wednesday’s blasts, contravening a 2001 government regulation to keep homes and chemical storage facilities apart.

Windows were blown in by the force of the explosions, which left at least 50 people dead and more than 700 requiring hospital treatment.

Satellite images show one complex, the Vanke Harbour City Phase Three, standing just 600 metres away from the site of the explosion – a warehouse belonging to Ruihai International Logistics.

Two residential projects, marked in red and yellow, are within 1km of the blast site. Photo: Baidu Map

According to the Baidu satellite map, another development stands a little further away, still well within the one-kilometre safety zone. The two compounds within the one-kilometre radius are home to more than 5,600 households.

Residential developer Vanke, which has three projects in the area, told the 21st Century Business Herald that it was unaware that tenants were living so close to a dangerous facility. The company told the newspaper that when construction began in 2010 it understood the port was only used by “logistics warehouses for common goods”.

Residential buildings badly hit by the explosion. Photo: Weibo
Residential buildings badly hit by the explosion. Photo: Weibo

Vanke was not notified when the government approved Ruihai International Logistics’ application to start storing hazardous chemicals in one of the warehouses in 2014, the company told the newspaper.

Chemical storage warehouses need to be kept at least one kilometre away from residential buildings and public transportation, according to a government regulatory document published in 2001.

People running away from the scene. Photo: Weibo.

According to the government’s environmental assessment report on Ruihai’s application, planning officials acknowledged that the proposed projects involved hazardous and inflammable materials, but “risks are within acceptable scope if effective preventive measures and emergency plans are made.”

Ruihai’s top executive Zhi Feng was injured in the blast, according to Beijing Youth Daily. Zhi is receiving treatment at a local hospital and is under authorities’ control, the newspaper said. The company has yet to make a statement about the incident.

Authorities have yet to discover the cause of the blasts and the nature of the chemicals that have been sent into the atmosphere.

Greenpeace said yesterday that rain forecast to fall on Friday could bring the chemicals in the atmosphere to earth and pollute the city’s waterways.


Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.