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China’s Tianjin blasts prompt raids in provinces, including in Tibet

Fire and smoke rise at the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin, China, August 13, 2015.
Fire and smoke rise at the site of the massive explosions in Tianjin, China, August 13, 2015.

(TibetanReview.net, Aug25, 2015) – Tibet Autonomous Region was among a handful of regions where the State Council, China’s cabinet, ordered raids following the deadly Aug 13 explosions at a chemical warehouse facility in China’s port city of Tianjin, according to jewocity.com Aug 23. Officials have been cited as saying up to 3,000 tons of unsafe chemicals, including 700 tons of sodium cyanide, were stored in the facility when the explosion took place.

Sodium cyanide is a highly toxic chemical commonly used in mining, which may explain the raid in Tibet. The region is particularly important to China for its rich reserves of critically important minerals. The numerous mining sites there have been targets of protests by Tibetans complaining about pollution, desecration of sacred places, forced confiscation of land without proper compensation and so on, leading to violent crackdowns and long term imprisonments.

Citing a statement on the State Administration of Work Safety’s website, the report said a series of raids had been ordered by the State Council in provinces, including Shandong, Sichuan, Guizhou, Tibet, Jilin and Inner Mongolia.

Meanwhile, the credibility-challenged Chinese government has been trying hard to reassure a highly skeptic citizenry about the damaging consequences from the Aug 13 explosions. Earlier in the week, the report noted, the chief of Tianjin’s Bureau of Environmental Protection, Wen Wurui, had assured that air and water data indicated there would not be a significant impact on human health.

And when thousands of dead fish washed up near the blast site, the authorities unconvincingly said the fish deaths were not linked to the catastrophic explosions at a chemical warehouse. They attempted to reassure the public, saying that the fish were killed by regular seasonal low oxygen levels in the water. But skeptics have wondered whether the massive fish die off was something that occurs naturally during this time of year.

Tianjin is said to be the world’s 10th busiest port and China’s largest storage and shipment facility for vehicles arriving and leaving. The explosion had damaged some 17,000 homes and destroyed 3,000 cars. A total of 129 people were confirmed killed as of Aug 25 morning, many of them fire fighters, with 44 still missing. In fact, questions have been asked whether fire fighters’ spraying of water over risky chemicals while responding to an initial blaze at the warehouse could have contributed to the subsequent massive detonations.

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