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Caged Bunnies Placed at Tianjin Explosion Site to Reassure Public as New Fires Erupt

Thousands of dead fish have also washed up on the banks of a river near the blast site. Authorities say sodium cyanide levels in the water around the site have nothing to do with it.
Photo via Reuters

Four separate fires have erupted within the evacuation zone around the site of last week's massive explosion in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, according to state news outlet Xinhua, as Chinese officials placed caged animals and foul in the disaster zone in an effort to show that the area was safe.

According to the Associated Press, the fires flared up within the 1.8 square mile evacuation zone around the site of the disaster, with one fire occurring in a parking lot. No information was provided detailing what led to the fires, but disaster response work continued on Friday after the flare-ups.


The original August 12 blast killed more than 100 people and began at a warehouse for hazardous material owned by the company Tianjin Dongjiang Port Ruihai International Logistics. After the blast, authorities discovered that 2500 tons of toxic substances, including 700 tons of poison, the majority of which was sodium cyanide, had been stored at the site. Forty other chemicals were also housed in the facility.

Sodium chloride is deadly if inhaled or ingested. In order to presumably assuage the public's fear that the chemical had contaminated the land and water in the city, Chinese authorities placed rabbits, chickens, and pigeons in brightly colored cages at the blast site. They survived for two hours and then were taken out of the zone, Reuters reported, citing local reports and its photo division.

Inside the evacuation area, where thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, the cyanide levels registered at 356 times higher than what is considered safe, Chinese officials told CNN. Elevated levels of cyanide were found in various other locations in the area, according to the Globe and Mail, including in water near the site that was deemed to contain levels of the chemical at 277 times what is considered safe.

Further fanning the fears of the population, thousands of fish turned up dead in the River Hai around 3.5 miles away from where the explosion occurred. Local authorities said they did not detect unsafe levels of cyanide in the waterway.


Dead fish in the River Hai.  (Photo by Reuters)

"It was not uncommon for fish to die en masse in local rivers during summer, due to poor water quality," said Deng Xiaowen, who led Tianjin's environment monitoring center, according to the Guardian. The official said they would look into the cause of death.

Tianjin's fishing association leader Zhang Yunli cited the yearly change in the water's salinity as a possible explanation.

The initial explosions and fires took place in a mostly industrial economic development zone, but blocks of large residential apartment buildings are located nearby.

Sixty people remain unaccounted for after the blast with more than 700 injuries reported.

Meanwhile, China's Politburo Standing Committee pushed for officials to step up their watching of safety regulations for industry.

"Recently, there's been a series of serious accidents in certain places, once again exposing grave safety risks," Xinhua state news agency reported from the discussion that Chinese President Xi Jinping organized in the wake of last week's disaster.

Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, is about 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Beijing on the Bohai Sea and is one of the country's major ports. It is one of China's more modern cities and is connected to the capital by a high speed rail line.

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