Hazardous Materials Explosion Rocks Chinese City of Tianjin

Dramatic video surfaced today of a warehouse explosion in the city of Tianjin in eastern China. Occurring near midnight Eastern Time, the explosion took place in a holding site for hazardous materials owned by a logistics company. The exact hazardous materials involved in the explosion have not yet been released.

There were two major blasts, estimated at the equivalent to three and 21 tons of TNT respectively.

Early reports are that hundreds of residents were injured.

This explosion is just the latest example of how a single EHS accident can bring the eyes of the world to your facilities, your company, and your brand. Just hours after the event, this explosion was one of the lead stories in news outlets all over the world, and videos of the event went viral online. With access to information from countries all around the globe increasingly growing easier, the potential impact of an EHS event continues to grow along with it.

Update 8/13/15

The Chinese government has now confirmed that at least 50 people lost their lives in the explosion, including at least twelve first responders, and over 700 were injured. Over 1,000 firefighters and 140 engines are now on the scene of the fireground. Firsthand witnesses compared the blasts to a nuclear bomb.

The local environmental protection agency is currently monitoring for increased pollution that may have arisen because of the blast.

There is no new information about the cause of the blast or the exact materials that exploded.

China's president, Xi Jinping, has promised "transparent information disclosure to the public" as the investigation continues.

Update 8/14/15

Today it was reported that the Chinese government has sent 200 "chemical experts" to assist in the cleanup and disaster recovery efforts at the site of the Tianjin explosion. In addition, information about the specific chemicals involved in the explosion is beginning to come to light. 

CNN reported findings by Greenpeace and other organizations that chemicals stored onsite included sodium cyanide, toluene diisocyanate, and calcium carbide. Calcium carbide and toulene diisocyanate are known to react violently to water, and there is some speculation that first responders arriving on the scene may have inadvertently triggered the blasts by using water to attempt to extinguish the flames.

Update 8/17/15

The death toll for the explosion in Tianjin has risen as news outlets around the world are now reporting at least 114 people dead as a result of the blast. A further 70 are still categorized as missing. So far, rescuers have been able to pull 50 survivors to safety from out of the blast rubble.

Reports have also surfaced indicating that there may have been hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide present at the blast site. Teams at the site of the blast are now working to control environmental effects as well as health risks to local residents. Because of the way sodium cyanide reacts with water, concern has been voiced that rainfall could create toxic gas. The Chinese government is said to be working to reduce this risk by neutralizing the sodium cyanide with the application of another chemical, hydrogen peroxide.

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