TIANJIN, China, Aug. 15 (Amy R. Connolly) — A second wave of explosions rocked Tianjin on Saturday and residents were asked to evacuate as plumes of smoke poured out of a hazardous chemical warehouse where 85 were killed earlier this week.
It is unclear what caused the second round of explosions Saturday. Chemical-warfare soldiers entered the core areas of the blast site to look for survivors, The death toll from the massive blast Wednesday stands at 85, including 21 firefighters, as of late Friday. More than 700 were injured and thousands are homeless after the blast, which is being likened to some 20 tons of TNT.
Authorities said a variety of toxic chemicals, including potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, calcium carbide and sodium cyanide, were stored at the site. Sodium cyanide, which releases cyanide gas, has leaked into groundwater, but officials said measures have been taken to block storm drains.
Residents are being told to wear face masks as the evacuation order was put in place about 2 p.m. local time, but many were confused about where to go and who should evacuate. Hours after the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported the evacuation, a Tianjin official denied there was any evacuation order.
Authorities said the main fire was extinguished on Friday night. State-run television showed hazmat teams in gas masks and protective gear trying to determine what toxic chemicals are present, some 36 hours after the initial blasts.
Authorities said the incident is the deadliest for firefighters since the founding of Communist China.