Exclusive: Tianjin deputy mayor responds to explosion concerns

By Huang Lei and Ma Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2015/8/18 13:19:22

The delayed release of information about the causalities in the August 12 Tianjin blast has been questioned by the public. He Shushan, the deputy mayor of Tianjin who is in charge of production safety, addressed those doubts in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Monday.

As of  9 am on Tuesday August 18, the death toll had hit 114, with 83 victims identified, and a further 57 still missing. 

"[The articles stored in the blast area] were highly toxic and should be cleaned immediately, and I was fully entrusted to handle the disposal of those dangerous chemical goods," said He.

Questions had been raised about why He did not attend any of the official press conferences until Monday; He explained that he had been too busy dealing with the aftermath of the explosion. He noted that his team had been working both days and nights to develop and implement corrective measures to a tight schedule and in tough circumstances, as the nature of the blast made the situation very complicated.

"All toxic chemicals scattered outside of the core area should be disposed of before Monday evening and that's why I was able to attend the press conference Monday morning," explained He. 

On the subject of the unidentified victims, he said, "Some of the bodies require DNA tests to verify their identities, and this process takes time... Information about their identities will be released regularly as soon as we receive the results."

The two survivors spotted in the core area of the explosion are now in stable condition and a total of 692 have been hospitalized. 

Why the disclosure of information so slow?

Some have asked why information about the event was not disclosed sooner. He said that the disclosure of information should be both timely and accurate. "I promise that all information will be released to the public at the first available opportunity, once its accuracy has been confirmed," said He.

A total of eight press conferences were held in the five days since August 13 to listen to and answer questions from concerned parties.

He emphasized that time was need to double-check the information, and said that some remaining fires and the risk of further explosions in the area has made rescue work even more difficult, while DNA tests are time-consuming due to their complexity. 

Most dangerous chemical goods identified

"The amount and types of the dangerous chemicals stored in the company's warehouse was basically clear," said He in the press conference. "Errors are unavoidable but 90 percent of the identification was accurate."

The authorities are now basically aware of the amount of cyanide in the area. The disposal of cyanide outside the core area has been completed properly, while earth and gravel has been used to seal cyanide within the core area. 

"The work that remains is still challenging," said He. The methods of disposal for the various types of chemicals differs greatly. 

He said the identification of the remaining chemicals must be as accurate as possible and formulating a scientific and effective disposal plan remains both the priority and main challenge. 

Aftermath disposal underway 

Global Times reporters noticed that work in and out of the core blast area was well-organized and effectively managed. 

He said that duties had been distributed across different work groups, all working under a single command center to ensure a fast and effective rescue. The work groups include teams focusing on chemical disposal, search and rescue and psychological aid, and a team to investigate the causes of the blast. 

"I feel very sad and sorry, for the loss of lives and damage to property," said He, indicating that studies are underway to put together plans for renovation of the damaged homes and compensation for the affected residents. 

He added that a temporary plan for Binhai New Area residents whose homes have been rendered uninhabitable has been formulated and would be implemented soon, with subsidy higher than the average cost of rent in the region.  

Investigations on blast causes 

The State Council has launched a special team to investigate the causes of the blast. 

Details of the causes, such as the whether the owner of the exploded warehouse, Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics, breached any laws and regulations in its operation, were yet to be clarified at the time of writing. 

He told the Global Times that he believes the team will be able to establish the cause. 

"Any breach of laws and regulations should be firmly punished," said He. "The injured, the dead and those alive in Tianjin deserve an answer." 

He added that evaluating the total loss caused by the blast should be conducted once the area has been cleaned, and direct and indirect losses would be disclosed after a thorough investigation and evaluation.  

Fire brigade: the first to arrive, and the most severely injured

Speculation has run rampant that first-responding firefighters may have dealt with the fire in an inappropriate or unprofessional way, after it emerged that many firefighters were killed or injured during the initial explosions. 

At the time of writing, a total of 50 firefighters were confirmed dead and 52 others missing. 

He said that the firefighters in the Public Security Bureau of Tianjin Port were the first to arrive at the scene and also those who suffered the most. 

"It's the duty of firefighters to put out fire without hesitation. As no surveillance video is available and most of the [early responding] firefighters are dead, no reckless speculations on their professionalism should be made," said He. 

He said that a total of 17 air quality monitoring stations had been launched and operated with extra frequency. Additional reports by the Xinhua News Agency state that water and soil monitoring stations have also been set up.

No pollutants, including cyanide, were detected from rainfall, sewage and sea water. All three off-shore discharge routes for waste were closed after the blast. 

"Generally speaking, the environment quality was safeguarded," He told the Global Times. 

Read more in Special Coverage:

Posted in: Society, Latest News

blog comments powered by Disqus