Two huge explosions that tore through an industrial area Wednesday night in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, have killed at least 50 people and disrupted the flow of iron ore, oil, and other items through the world’s 10th largest port.
According to local newspaper People’s Daily, at least 700 people were injured, more than 71 of them quite seriously, and two fires are still burning, following last night’s blasts, which were so vast that they were seen by satellites in space.
Vast areas of the port have been devastated, and shipping containers crashed into one another, leaving them in bent, charred piles. Rows of new cars, lined up on vast lots for distribution across China, were reduced to blackened carcasses, AP reports.
The Tianjin Public Security Bureau said the explosion happened at the Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd., which handles the transport of hazardous goods.
“There was no damage to the iron ore discharging berths following the explosion,” world’s No. 1 mining company BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) said in a statement on Thursday. “However, shipments and port operations have been disrupted as a result and we are working with our customers to minimize any potential impact.”
“It is unclear the extent of the disruption likely to be experienced to port activities,” Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG), Australia’s third-largest shipper, noted in a statement. “We will be monitoring the situation.”
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Beijing environmental emergency response center, as well as 214 Chinese military nuclear and biochemical materials specialists are working in the area, official Xinhua news agency reports.
Tianjin is the 10th largest port in the world by container volume, according to the World Shipping Council, handling large quantities of metal ore, coal, steel, cars and crude oil.
The port, located about 160 km (100 miles) southeast of Beijing, handled 25.08 million tons of iron ore imports in the first half of the year, or 5.5% of the country’s total, according to customs data. It also shipped out roughly 30% of China’s steel exports in the period.