China IDs 123 People for Tianjin Blasts
A China State Council investigation team has identified 123 people responsible for the Tianjin warehouse explosions last August that killed at least 165 people, the country’s official news agency Xinhua has reported. Prior to the announcement, 49 people, including 13 employed by warehouse owner Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics, had been put under legal coercive measures, which can include summons by force, bail, residential surveillance, arrest and detention.
After a five-month probe into what caused one of China’s worst industrial disasters, the state investigation team concluded that a fire broke out in a container, which subsequently spread and ignited other chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, which had been stored improperly or illegally at the site in Tianjin Port.
Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics was found to have illegally built a freight yard and stored hazardous materials, conducted illegal operations, while safety management procedures were inept. In addition, company executives were found to have exploited their connections and bribed local officials to get approvals.
The investigators have suggested that 74 responsible people should be subject to state disciplinary procedures and 48 admonished under local laws. They also recommended that the operator’s licenses be revoked and company executives be banned from working in the sector.
The team has called for more government scrutiny of intermediary organizations that are responsible for safety and environmental evaluations. Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics is said to have succeeded in obtaining government permits to operate because appraisal firms had issued fraudulent safety reports.
In addition, the report advises central government to streamline port safety management, delimit responsibilities clearly, strictly implement city planning and tighten safety requirements.
Six months after the blasts, and Chinese authorities are still dealing with underground water and soil pollution in the core zone of the explosions. Air pollution has been neutralized and polluted surface water has been disposed of, the news agency said.
Xinhua said the disaster had caused direct economic losses of around $1.1 billion. Eight people remain unaccounted for.