Firefighter rescued from blast zone in China's Tianjin port

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Witness Captures Massive China Explosions

TIANJIN, China (AP) — Rescuers pulled out a firefighter who was trapped for 32 hours after responding to a fire and huge explosions in the Chinese port city of Tianjin as authorities moved forward gingerly Friday in dealing with a fire still smoldering amid potentially dangerous chemicals.

A rapid succession of explosions late Wednesday — one equal to 21 tons of TNT — killed at least 50 people, injured more than 700 and left more than a dozen firefighters missing. They were sparked by a fire at what authorities said were shipping containers containing hazardous material. They struck a mostly nonresidential warehouse district late at night — otherwise the death toll could have been much higher.

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Firefighter rescued from blast zone in China's Tianjin port
Smoke continues to billow from behind rows of burnt out Volkswagen cars the second morning after a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin, in northern China on August 14, 2015. A Chinese military team of nuclear and chemical experts began work on August 14 at the site of two massive explosions in the city of Tianjin, state media said, as pressure grows for authorities to explain the cause of blasts that left 50 dead. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers work at the site of the explosions in Tianjin on August 14, 2015. Enormous explosions in a major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500, state media reported on August 13, leaving a devastated industrial landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Shipping containers sit piled up next to a badly damaged building on the second morning after a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin, in northern China on August 14, 2015. A Chinese military team of nuclear and chemical experts began work on August 14 at the site of two massive explosions in the city of Tianjin, state media said, as pressure grows for authorities to explain the cause of blasts that left 50 dead. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, a man walks through the site of an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality. Rescuers have pulled a survivor from an industrial zone about 32 hours after it was devastated by huge blasts in China’s Tianjin port. Meanwhile, authorities are moving gingerly forward in dealing with a fire still smoldering amid potentially dangerous chemicals. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A woman organizes lists of missing people at a refugee center for residents unable to return their homes devastated by the shockwave of Wednesday's explosion in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Rescuers pulled out a firefighter trapped for 32 hours after responding to a fire and huge explosions in the Chinese port city as authorities dealt Friday with a fire still smoldering amid potentially dangerous chemicals. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man (C) surveys the damage on the second morning after a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin, in northern China on August 14, 2015. A Chinese military team of nuclear and chemical experts began work on August 14 at the site of two massive explosions in the city of Tianjin, state media said, as pressure grows for authorities to explain the cause of blasts that left 50 dead. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris litters an empty street adjacent to the site the second morning after where a series of explosions hit a chemical warehouse in the city of Tianjin, in northern China on August 14, 2015. A Chinese military team of nuclear and chemical experts began work on August 14 at the site of two massive explosions in the city of Tianjin, state media said, as pressure grows for authorities to explain the cause of blasts that left 50 dead. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Burnt out Volkswagen cars are pictured amongst the damage on the second morning after a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse hit the city of Tianjin, in northern China on August 14, 2015. A Chinese military team of nuclear and chemical experts began work on August 14 at the site of two massive explosions in the city of Tianjin, state media said, as pressure grows for authorities to explain the cause of blasts that left 50 dead. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
CORRECTION Rescuers (C) work at the site of an explosion in Tianjin on August 14, 2015. Chinese authorities struggled to extinguish fires and identify dangerous chemicals at a devastated industrial site, two days after giant explosions killed dozens and left residents in fear of being cloaked in a toxic cloud. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A nurse tends to a man at a hospital receiving victims of Wednesday's massive explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. Rescuers pulled out a firefighter trapped for 32 hours after responding to a fire and huge explosions in the Chinese port city as authorities dealt Friday with a fire still smoldering amid potentially dangerous chemicals. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, a man walks past the charred remains of new cars at a parking lot near the site of an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality. Rescuers have pulled a survivor from an industrial zone about 32 hours after it was devastated by huge blasts in China’s Tianjin port. Meanwhile, authorities are moving gingerly forward in dealing with a fire still smoldering amid potentially dangerous chemicals. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this combination of Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, images taken from video provided by Dan Van Duren a warehouse explodes in Tianjin, China, as filmed from a nearby residential building. Tianjin is the world's 10th largest port. (Dan Van Duren via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
In this combination of Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, images taken from video provided by Dan Van Duren a warehouse explodes in Tianjin, China, as filmed from a nearby residential building. Tianjin is the world's 10th largest port. (Dan Van Duren via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Fire and smoke are seen after explosions at a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by Tong Yu/CNSPHOTO/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) (EDITORS NOTE: Image is highest resolution available.) Fire and smoke are seen after explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 12, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Fire and smoke rise from the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) A woman recieves treatment at Teda Hospital following the explosions of a warehouse on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by Tong Yu/CNSPHOTO/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Construction workers nearby the spot of Wednesday explosions evacuate a place on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
An injured worker (L) walks out with colleagues from the area near the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Rows of burnt out Volkswagen cars are seen near the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) People stay at a primary school set as the emergency evacuation after the Wednesday explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
An injured man walks out with other residents from an area near the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) A child sleeps on the playground at a primary school set as the emergency evacuation after the Wednesday explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A damaged warehouse is seen at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin on August 13, 2015. A series of enormous explosions at an industrial area in the Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 44 people and injured hundreds, state media reported August 13, unleashing a fireball that ripped through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) A residential building nearby the explosions are damaged on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A man takes a photo near a burnt drum that residents said flew from a nearby explosion seen in the background in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions sparked overnight at a warehouse for dangerous materials in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 13 people, injured hundreds and sent massive fireballs into the night sky, officials and state media outlets said Thursday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Rows of cars are burnt following the explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) (EDITORS NOTE: Image is highest resolution available.) Fire and smoke are seen after explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 12, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Flames rise as a banner in the background reads 'no illegal operations' at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames rise next to a damaged building at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Flames rise next to damaged buildings at the site of an explosion in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Cars are burnt in the debris following the explosions of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Two men look at broken windows in a building near the site of an explosion in Tianjin, in northern China on August 13, 2015. Enormous explosions in a major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500, state media reported, leaving a devastated industrial landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Damaged containers lie in a canal as smoke billows from the site of an explosion in Tianjin, in northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse killed 13 people, state media reported August 13. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
A man wears a mask as he visits an area damaged by an explosion in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Chinese state media reported huge explosions at the Tianjin port late Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Two women sleep on the road outside a damaged residential building near the site of an explosion in Tianjin, in northern China on August 13, 2015. E normous explosions in a major Chinese port city killed at least 44 people and injured more than 500, state media reported, leaving a devastated industrial landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Construction workers nearby the spot of Wednesday explosions evacuate a place on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A man with his wounds bandaged eats a bun in a hospital receiving victims of an explosion in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions in the warehouse district sent up massive fireballs that turned the night sky into day in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, officials and witnesses said Thursday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man takes photos of damaged containers at the site of an explosion in Tianjin, northern China, on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 13 people, state media reported on August 13, as witnesses described a fireball produced by the blasts ripping through the night sky. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke billows behind rows of burnt out cars at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin, northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Fires burn at the site of an explosion in Tianjin, in northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse killed 13 people, state media reported August 13. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Two men walk past damaged containers at the site of an explosion in Tianjin, in northern China on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse killed 13 people, state media reported August 13. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured man walks out of a hospital catering to victims of an explosion in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions sparked overnight at a warehouse for dangerous materials in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 13 people, injured hundreds and sent massive fireballs into the night sky, officials and state media outlets said Thursday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
An injuried man stands by an ambulance outside a hospital following a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
An injured survivor is brought to a hospital following an explosion in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
A hospital worker and a resident push what appears to be a lifeless body into a hospital in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Chinese state media reported huge explosions at the Tianjin port late Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man crying about the death of his son collapses outside a hospital receiving victims of explosions in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Chinese state media reported huge explosions at the Tianjin port late Wednesday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Security guards and a resident push what appears to be a lifeless body into a hospital in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Huge explosions sparked overnight at a warehouse for dangerous materials in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 13 people, injured hundreds and sent massive fireballs into the night sky, officials and state media outlets said Thursday. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
An official wearing a mask stands by a police car at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
The burnt wreckage of a car is seen as flames rise in the background at the site of a series of explosions in Tianjin early on August 13, 2015. A series of massive explosions at a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin killed 17 people, state media reported August 13, as witnesses described a fireball from the blasts ripping through the night sky. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE This photo taken with a mobile phone on August 12, 2015 shows people taking shelter on a street after a huge explosion in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin. At least 50 people were wounded on August 12 by a huge explosion of inflammable material stored in a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin, state media reported. The official Xinhua news agency said the blast happened at around 11:30 pm (1630 GMT), when a deafening bang was heard and plumes of flame lit up the night sky, scattering dust dozens of metres into the air. AFP PHOTO -- CHINA OUT -- (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE This photo taken with a mobile phone on August 12, 2015 shows people taking shelter on a street after a huge explosion in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin. At least 50 people were wounded on August 12 by a huge explosion of inflammable material stored in a warehouse in the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin, state media reported. The official Xinhua news agency said the blast happened at around 11:30 pm (1630 GMT), when a deafening bang was heard and plumes of flame lit up the night sky, scattering dust dozens of metres into the air. AFP PHOTO -- CHINA OUT -- (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency smoke and fire rises after an explosion in the Binhai New Area in north China's Tianjin Municipality on Thursday Aug. 13, 2015. Chinese state media reported huge explosions at the Tianjin port late Wednesday. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP) 

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency smoke and fire erupt into the night sky after an explosion in the Binhai New Area in north China's Tianjin Municipality on Thursday Aug. 13, 2015. Chinese state media reported huge explosions at the Tianjin port late Wednesday with large numbers of people reported injured. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP) 

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Tianjin Binhai New Area exploded. suspected to be a gas station http://t.co/ko7cEsCGmO
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However, the toll included at least 17 firefighters among the more than 1,000 sent to respond to the disaster. Firefighters initially responded to a fire at the warehouse and many of them apparently were killed by a series of explosions triggered 40 minutes after the fire was reported. An additional 13 firefighters are missing, officials said.

"Reinforcements had just arrived on the scene and were just getting to work when the explosions occurred and therefore there was no chance to escape, and that's why the casualties were so severe," Tianjin Fire Department head Zhou Tian said at a news conference early Friday. "We're now doing all we can to rescue the missing," Zhou said.

One firefighter was pulled from the zone at about dawn Friday and brought to a hospital, where he was being treated for face, chest and feet injured, the state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Authorities have publicly assured a skeptical public that the blasts have not contaminated the air but have been relatively reticent about other concerns raised, such as whether residences were too close to the warehouse and whether firefighters may have sparked the blasts by spraying water on volatile chemicals.

Many Tianjin residents weren't taking any chances, and could be seen Friday wearing air-filtering masks.

"I don't usually wear a mask but I don't quite trust what the government says," said Ma Wiehan, wearing a mask while walking with her 6-month-old daughter. "I'm doing this for my child."

One report in the Chinese press suggested that water used by first responders may have come into contact with a chemical that explodes on contact with water, but an official also is quoted as saying the first wave of firefighters could not have sparked the blasts.

Many of the fire trucks seen at the site hours after the blasts use a kind of firefighting foam.

Authorities have not said what caused the explosions, saying only that they originated at the warehouse owned by Ruihai International Logistics. Its website says the company is authorized to handle chemicals ranging from flammable gases and liquids, including compressed natural gas and ethyl acetate, to chemicals that explode on contact with water, including sodium cyanide and calcium carbide.

However, the warehouse was a transit point and authorities have no clear picture of what was there at the time of the blasts. Records at the site were destroyed in the disaster meaning that authorities must rely on customs documents, said Gao Huaiyou, deputy director of occupational safety in Tianjin.

City officials so far have confirmed only that calcium carbide, potassium nitrate and sodium nitrate were at the warehouse.

Zhou said further firefighting efforts must go slow because of the potentially complex mix of chemicals at the site.

"Many types of different materials with different characteristics are mixed together and could at any time result in a chemical reaction or explosion," Zhou said.

In an interview with the Shanghai-based publication The Paper, a fire official at the Ministry of Public Safety, Lei Jinde, is quoted as confirming that the first wave of firefighters used water to cool down areas on fire. When asked whether he knew there was calcium carbide was at the warehouse, he said yes and that firefighters would not have sprayed water on the substance.

When asked whether initial firefighter response could have sparked the second blast, Lei said "No. The response procedure must have been scientific."

On the day after the blasts, Tianjin's environmental protection chief Wen Wurui told a news conference that there had been no apparent contamination of the air, based on samples taken at five air monitoring stations throughout the city. He also said all waterways leading from the disaster site to the sea had been sealed to contain any potential water leaks.

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