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Beijing (PTI): Chinese authorities on Saturday put the final death toll at 173 in the country’s worst industrial disaster at Tianjin port, as officials ended the search for the remaining eight missing exactly a month after the incident following a complete clean-up of the place.
Tianjin city government announced in a micro-blog that there was no hope of finding the eight persons, and the court will now start issuing death certificates. The massive twin blasts that rocked chemical warehouse at the port city was also disastrous for the country’s fire fighting unit as 104 firemen were killed besides 11 police officers and 55 civilians. The eight persons who remained unaccounted for included five firefighters. Over 700 people were injured and many of them are still undergoing treatment in hospitals.
The blasts ripped through the warehouse on August 12 night in Tianjin Port, where large amounts of toxic chemicals were stored, including around 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide. It all started with fire in the container terminal prompting a large force of firefighters rushing to the scene only to be blown off by the blasts which destroyed several residential building in the neighbourhood besides about 10,000 imported cars of various companies lined up for delivery. It is still not known what had caused the fire and the ferocity of the explosions which shook the city.
Meanwhile, amid fears of chemical contamination of air and water, officials managed to clear thousands of burnt cars and containers by deploying a large force of nuclear and biological warfare experts. Official media has carried photos of empty site except puddles of water stating that the place has been cleaned up. Amid speculation about corruption, 12 people including the chairman, vice-chairman and three deputy general managers of Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics Co Ltd, owner of the warehouse where the explosions took place, were arrested.
Also an ugly row has broken out over payment of compensation for 104 firemen killed in the blasts as relatives of the firefighters on contracts complained of discrimination. Family members of some of the dead firefighters, employed as contract staff by the company managing the port, said the government had failed to honour and compensate equally with firemen on regular government employment.
Residents affected by the explosions said they are not satisfied with a local government offer to either repair their homes or ask private companies to purchase their houses and demanded higher compensation to buy new residential flats.