Protesting residents demand compensation over Tianjin disaster | News | DW | 17.08.2015
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Protesting residents demand compensation over Tianjin disaster

Rescuers have been scrambling to contain the dangerous chemicals as the death toll continues to rise following the explosions. Meanwhile owners of destroyed homes in Tianjin want the government to pay for their losses.

Tianjin residents whose homes were damaged by the recent massive chemical blasts launched a protest on Monday to demand compensation as the death toll rose to 114, with 70 people still missing.

"We victims demand: Government, buy back our houses," read one banner in front of the hotel where officials have been holding daily press conferences, while another banner questioned the effects of pollution on citizens: "Kids are asking: How can we grow up healthy?"

Flouting safety rules

The explosions which destroyed the city's harbor on Wednesday originated from a warehouse for hazardous material, including hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide - a toxic substance that can become combustible when it mixes with water - in amounts that violated safety regulations. The Beijing News reported that the warehouse was only allowed to house 24 metric tons of the chemical.

When a fire broke out on Wednesday evening, firefighters who doused the building with water may have triggered the massive blasts. At least 21 of the those killed were firefighters, making it the deadliest incident for Chinese firefighters in sixty years.

Rescuers were busy removing the "unaffected" barrels of cyanide on Monday as they found two more bodies in the debris. A fresh explosion was also reported Monday morning but appeared to be extinguished rather quickly.

Authorities have faced harsh criticism over the failure to stick to safety rules at the warehouse.

Karte China Tianjin Englisch

The important port city is home to around 15 million people.

Media blasts government-business connections

On top of the more than one hundred dead, 700 were injured in the explosions, including 50 local Toyota employees, a company spokesman said Monday as they were forced to shut down production due to evacuations from the city.

Chinese media reports indicated that the son of the port's former police chief was a major shareholder in the site, Ruihai International Logistics. There has been no official explanation for the blasts, though prosecutors announced an investigation on Sunday. Media outlets like the Beijing News and the web portal Sohu have taken the opportunity to criticize the lax enforcement of regulations at businesses with close government ties.

es/rg (AFP, AP, dpa)

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