Nuclear and biochemical material experts were already dispatched to investigate the huge explosions that shocked Tianjin on Wednesday. There were fears that the air nearby has become toxic and dangerous to people.
Meanwhile, media censorship had already been in placed in China with a CNN reporter blocked from reporting and local Chinese television networks airing soap operas the whole day. Chinese netizens were telling that their posts about the Tianjin explosion were being blocked and censored across Weibo, the Chinese adaptation of Facebook.
Nuclear experts working on site
A team consisting of 217 nuclear and biochemical experts is already investing the site of explosions on Thursday, China Xinhua News reported. The National Health and Family Planning Commissions also dispatched 36 clinical and psychological specialists from its 10 civil and military hospitals in Beijing, the report said.
Furthermore, 125 military personnel on reserve duty from Tianjin Garrison Command were also deployed in the location. Moreover, the Binhai New Area military department had deployed its 130 personnel to respond to the rescue and search operations.
Xinhua reported that the smoke in the area is thick and there are fears that it has become toxic already. Rescue personnel responding to the site were ordered to wear heavy protective suits. According to Xinhua, a “pungent stink” could already be smelled just within 1 km away from the explosion.
“According to our preliminary detection efforts, we suggested that rescue teams move upwind,” said Du Jiang, team political commissar.
The death toll has now climbed to 50, with 701 admitted to hospital. The PLA has also set up clinics nearby the site with 45 medics in duty.
The company under investigation that is said to be responsible for the explosion is the Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd., Xinhua reported. The nature of its business is the storage, transfer, distribution and customs declaration of dangerous chemicals.
Media Censorship in place
The Chinese authorities are reportedly shooing reporters away from the site, The Los Angeles Times reported. They are also said to be deleting negative posts about the government’s response on the disaster and instead flooding local networks with news about its relief efforts, the report said.
For the whole time that the disaster is happening, Tianjin TV has been airing cartoons as it awaited for the government’s advice whether to cover the incident, LA Time notes. Another television coverage of the incident was cut mid-air when a reporter cornered Tianjin’s Environmental Protection Bureau chief Wen Wurui. The chief was reportedly being pressed to explain as to why the Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd was permitted to operate in close proximity to residential areas. The coverage was instantly pulled off the air and a concert was aired instead, LA Times said in its report.
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Hong Kong Free Press has also reported about a post on China’s social media site, Weibo, saying that reporters for Tianjin Television were awaiting advice from government whether to report the incident live. There were also local journalists who were told to stop taking photos inside the hospital where victims were taken.
Hong Kong Free Press further reported that CNN reporter, Will Ripley, was prevented from reporting live outside another hospital. According to the report, Ripley was blocked by several men who were telling him to stop recording the events as it unfold. Ripley later said on air that his experience was “something that has happened many times over the years in any number of stories in China.”