The death toll in the tragic Chinese warehouse explosion has hit at least 50, with more than 700 people injured.
Two huge explosions tore through the industrial area where chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin
Authorities also said they have lost contact with 36 firefighters at the scene and 12 of them have been confirmed as among the dead. They were among more than 1,000 firefighters sent to fight the flames.
Of the 700 injured, 71 are believed to be serious, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The first explosion, equivalent to three tonnes of TNT, happened at around 11.30pm local time, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
The explosion, believed to have involved a shipment of explosives, sent huge fireballs into the air and triggered a blast wave that could be felt miles away, CCTV said.
The second blast, which was equivalent to 21 tonnes of TNT, happened about 30 seconds after the initial explosion.
The initial explosion also triggered other blasts at nearby buildings and many people were wounded by broken glass and stones, with some worried they were at the centre of a major earthquake or atomic bomb.
Sky News China correspondent Katie Stallard said the explosion was so big that it was visible from space, being seen by a Japanese weather satellite and also registered as a seismic event by the US Geological Society.
She added that hospitals were overwhelmed and the military had been brought in to help the recovery in the city of 15 million.
Police said the initial explosion happened at a warehouse owned by Ruihai Logistics and state media said senior management at the firm have been detained by authorities.
An assessment by government inspectors published last year said the complex was designed to store dangerous and toxic chemicals including butanone, an explosive industrial solvent, sodium cyanide and compressed natural gas.
President Xi Jinping is demanding severe punishment for anyone found responsible for the explosions, although what caused them is still unclear.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who is currently in China, expressed his ‘deep condolences for the tragic loss of life’.
‘I was in this vibrant city, meeting local workers at the Airbus factory, just hours before the explosions happened and pay tribute to Tianjin emergency workers who have been fighting fires and treating casualties,’ he said.
The fire is now mostly under control, although the local government says firefighting efforts have been put on hold while a team assesses the hazardous material at the site.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Beijing environmental emergency response centre, as well as 214 Chinese military nuclear and biochemical materials specialists, are heading for Tianjin, according to Xinhua news agency.