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At least 50 dead and 500 injured as blasts shake Chinese city

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Beijing: At least 50 people were killed and over 500 injured as thunderous blasts tore through a warehouse in China’s Tianjin city, triggering frightening leaping flames. The explosions — like an earthquake — gutted over 2,500 cars and caused widespread destruction.

Photo Credit: www.siasat.com
Photo Credit: www.siasat.com

Authorities didn’t say what caused the ear-splitting blasts on Wednesday night but quickly rushed 214 military specialists who handle both nuclear and biochemical materials, media reports said on Thursday.

Twelve fire-fighters were among those killed in the horror in Tianjin, over 100 km from here. A total of 521 people were hospitalized, including 71 who were in critical condition. Over 20 people were missing, Xinhua news agency reported.

Residents of Tianjin — home to 14.72 million people — said the blasts were like a “big fireball” and they felt like a “bomb that just exploded”, forcing them to flee to the streets, terrified. Many were wounded.

More than 1,000 fire fighters and 151 fire engines battled the blaze. Drones were dispatched to the site, said officials.

Zhang, who lives a 10-minute-drive from the site, said the blasts turned the night sky seem like day, reported China Daily.

A video clip showed thick smoke covering the sky, and shortly after fires raged. There were several loud bangs.

At the blasts site, 2,748 imported Volkswagen vehicles burned, covered in layers of ash, China Business News reported.

The explosions were so massive that they triggered seismic activity.

Authorities said fire fighters first arrived at the Tianjin Port on Wednesday night following a report that several containers were on fire.

Zhou Tian, head of Tianjin’s fire department, said the second batch of fire fighters reached after a gap of 10 minutes — and roughly 14 minutes before the first explosion.

The first explosion occurred at about 11.30 p.m. followed by a more powerful blast, and a series of smaller explosions, BBC reported, adding that the blasts caused a massive fireball.

The warehouse contained “dangerous” goods and their volatility made the fire “unpredictable and dangerous to approach”, said the rescuers.

Residents recalled the night’s horror.

Du Wenjun said he never imagined he would see a “mushroom cloud” outside the window of his home.

Zhao Lirong, a 35-year-old businesswoman, was asleep when the blast blew off the windows and doors of her apartment, hitting her head, her son’s neck and her husband’s feet.

Blood stains were splattered on the floors of hospitals that received injured patients.

People rushed onto the streets in their pajamas and frantically made calls to find the well-being of their loved ones.

Most patients suffered burns, bruises, bone fractures and injuries related to the shock-wave.

“It’s all black and smog, I can’t see anything inside. Some of my colleagues had even worse injuries,” an injured fire fighter told Xinhua.

Smog billowed from the site. In a nearby apartment complex, the balconies of many apartment buildings were shattered.

The military also organized 130 men to assist with the rescue operation, including the use of drones and piloting helicopters to observe the site and drop water on the flames.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang vowed to investigate the accident.

Xi ordered authorities to spare no effort to treat the injured, search for the missing and contain the fire.

Li urged authorities to intensify search and rescue operations.

(IANS)

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China, US Set To Take Action Against Each Other

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng's arrest

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President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

China and the US are set to take action against each other as tensions escalate over trade, cyber hacking and espionage as senior American law enforcement officials identified Beijing as the most serious threat to Washington’s national security, officials said.

China’s methods of non-traditional espionage, including their use of ordinary Chinese expatriates instead of spies at universities and businesses, and intellectual property theft, were explained by the officials from the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who briefed US lawmakers on Wednesday, CNN reported.

“As the US proceeds a whole of society response to this threat, we must address the vulnerabilities within our system while preserving our values and the open, free and fair principles that have made us thrive,” E.W. Priestap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Director of Counter-intelligence told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the US, but the future of the world.”

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) top national security official told lawmakers on Wednesday the administration was reacting to China’s “steadily increasing” economic espionage activity, which costs the US an estimated $225 billion a year.

From 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the DOJ’s cases alleging economic espionage by a state have involved China, and more than two-thirds of trade secret thefts have a nexus to China, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

“From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China’s publicly announced strategic goals,” Demers said. “The play book is simple: rob, replicate and replace.”

Priestap and his colleagues testified hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an interview with Fox News that the US believes Beijing was behind the massive cyber-attack on the Marriott hotel chain, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the assault was part of a broader Chinese operation that also targeted health insurers and the security clearance files of millions of Americans.

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Those disclosures came a day after President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to use Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou who was arrested in Canada for violating US sanctions on Iran as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing, which for now is in a 90-day pause.

A Canadian judge on Tuesday night granted Meng a $7.5 million bail, while she awaits extradition to the US.

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng’s arrest. (IANS)