Tianjin, Aug 15: The death toll in twin blasts in this Chinese port city on Saturday, Aug 15 shot up to 104 even as experts confirmed the presence of deadly sodium cyanide and minor explosions and fires continued to hamper rescue work.
Rescue headquarters said 721 people were admitted to hospitals of which 25 have sustained critical injuries whole the death toll from explosions has risen to 104. The condition of 33 injured was stated to be serious, local officials said.
There were 21 firefighters among the dead, the highest so far in China's recent history. Official media reports said 36 firefighters were still missing. Nuclear and biological detections teams found evidence of sodium cyanide, a deadly chemical that emits highly toxic gases if it is burnt or comes in contact with water along with other chemicals.
President Xi Jinping has asked officials to learn from the "extremely profound" lessons paid for with blood.
Xi said in written instructions that the Tianjin blasts and a string of serious accidents recently exposed severe problems in the work safety sector, and authorities must always keep "safe growth" and "people's interest first" in mind to avoid such accidents.
He demanded a better emergency response mechanism, greater implementation of work safety measures and rule, and careful checks of all possible safety risks, to achieve "substantial improvement" in work safety, Xinhua reported.
While confirming the presence of cyanide, state run CCTV said the substance in the form of crystal powder can be rapidly fatal if it is inhaled or injected as it interferes with the body's ability to breathe oxygen.
When it devolves with water or burnt it releases highly toxic gas hydrogen cyanide, it said. It is grim news for this port town of 7.5 million people as the city is already concerned about foul air and is located just about 115 kms from capital Beijing.
There were protests from frustrated relatives of the missing firefighters demanding answers on their loved ones' fate as specialised anti-chemical warfare soldiers recovered one survivor.
A man in his fifties was rescued from the blasts site this afternoon, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Soldiers found him 50 meters away from a burst point. He was conscious and could talk and was rushed to a hospital in the city, the report said.
A total of 70 anti-chemical warfare soldiers entered the core area of the blast site this morning to search for possible survivors for the first time after the blasts shook the area on Wednesday night.
Indian officials said one Indian employee of commercial firm was among the injured and his condition was stable.