China blasts: Tianjin report finds 123 people responsible

Scene of explosions in Tianjin. 13 Aug 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption The blasts devastated an area of the port in Tianjin

More than 120 people, including senior officials, were responsible for deadly blasts in the Chinese city of Tianjin last August, investigators have said.

Their report said the warehouse blasts were caused by hazardous materials improperly or illegally stored, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Investigators identified 123 people, including five officials at ministerial level, who they said were responsible.

The blasts killed 165 people and eight others are still missing.

More than 300 buildings were damaged by the blasts in the port area, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

The Xinhua report said a highly flammable chemical, nitro-cotton, had been allowed to dry out and self-ignite, setting fire to other chemicals including ammonium nitrate and causing a chain reaction of fires and explosions.

It said that the owner of the warehouse, Ruihai International Logistics, had "illegally built a freight-yard of hazardous materials, conducted illegal operations, illegally stored hazardous material and had been running inept safety management".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many of those who died were firefighters called to the initial blaze
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Residential areas near the site had to be evacuated

The report said local officials in several departments had failed to enforce regulations strictly.

In December, police arrested 24 people from Ruihai and 25 government officials in connection with the blasts.

The investigation panel, led by the State Council, China's Cabinet, suggested that authorities take action against those it had identified.

The report also recommended that Ruihai International Logistics's licences be revoked and the company's officials be barred from other executive posts in the same sector.

Those killed in the blasts included 99 port firefighters, Xinhua said.

Leading investigator Du Lanping told state broadcaster CCTV that fire crews sent to tackle the initial blaze had not been told of the existence of 800 tons of ammonium nitrate.

"The key is that ammonium nitrate was not supposed to be stored there at all,'' she said.

"The firefighters were not told of its existence so the commanders could not make sufficient risk assessments."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Angry local residents have demanded more information from the government

Another investigator, Li Wanchun, told CCTV: "If the proper approval procedures had been followed, Ruihai would have never been allowed to exist in the first place.''

The huge explosions also destroyed more than 12,400 cars and 7,500 containers in the port, Chinese media said.

The cost of the damage from the blasts has been put at 6.87 billion yuan ($1.1bn; £758m), Xinhua said.

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