An official in Tianjin has committed suicide this week, the same day that 23 other municipal bureaucrats were detained or placed under investigation for the chemical explosions that killed 139 in the north China port city.

Dong Yongcun, Director of Administrative Examination and Approval Department for Tianjin Transportation Committee, jumped to his death on Wednesday morning, China’s Sina News reported.

According to another Transportation Committee member, the reason behind Dong’s suicide is “still being investigated.”

Tianjin explosion. Photo: Sina.

Two of the 12 Tianjin officials who have been “criminally detained” on charges of dereliction of duty include Transportation Committee chairman Ren Wudai and the head of the committee’s port management department, Li Zhigang.

Others officials detained or placed under investigation include the chief of the transportation department and employees of the company that conducted the warehouse’s safety assessment.

Prosecutors said that the officials “clearly knew” that chemicals were stored too close to residential buildings, describing their conduct as “seriously irresponsible.”

The Transportation Committee was set up by Tianjin’s government in 2014 to integrate management of the city’s port facilities and and public highways.

Despite regulations that require dangerous chemicals like those that ignited in Tianjin to be stored at least 1,000 meters from residential buildings, the nearest homes were under 600 meters from the facility.

On Wednesday afternoon, the death toll from the blasts was raised again to 139, including 84 firefighters. 34 people remain missing.

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Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Kilpatrick is a local writer, journalist and editor. Formerly National Online Editor for the That's magazine group in China, his work on the history and politics of the region has earned him the CEFC Award in Modern China Studies and has also appeared in China Economic Review, Asian Studies Review, China Green News, e-International Relations, Shanghaiist and various publications at his alma mater, the University of Hong Kong, where he is currently enrolled in the Master of Journalism programme.