China blast zone evacuated over contamination fear; 104 dead

Deadly Chemicals Found at Chinese Blast Site-CCTV

TIANJIN, China (AP) -- New small explosions rocked a disaster zone in the Chinese port of Tianjin on Saturday as teams scrambled to clear dangerous chemical contamination and found several more bodies to bring the death toll to 104 in massive blasts earlier in the week.

Angry relatives of missing firefighters stormed a government news conference to demand any information on their loved ones, who have not been seen since a fire and rapid succession of blasts late Wednesday at a warehouse for hazardous chemicals in a mostly industrial area.

SEE MORE: China defends initial response to chemical fires after port blasts

The death toll in the ensuing inferno included at least 21 firefighters - making the disaster the deadliest for Chinese firefighters in more than six decades.

An unknown number of firefighters remain missing, and a total of 720 people were injured in the disaster in Tianjin, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Beijing. One additional survivor was found Saturday.

See more images from the deadly blast:

45 PHOTOS
Tianjin, China explosion
See Gallery
China blast zone evacuated over contamination fear; 104 dead
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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 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)
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)
#天津 #爆炸 #祈祷 #explode #pray 😰😰😰😰😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢💔💔💔💔🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏please... let's pray for Tianjin ,China .tonight!!!
tianjin binhai new area explosion #tianjin
永昌远征军拍的现场两张照片 #天津爆炸 http://t.co/bPEO5Loj6D
damn.. #RIP 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏 STAY WITH US 😢😢😢
pray for my city#boom #tianjin
Tianjin Binhai New Area exploded. suspected to be a gas station http://t.co/ko7cEsCGmO
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Two Chinese news outlets, including the state-run The Paper, reported that the warehouse was storing 700 tons of sodium cyanide - 70 times more than it should have been holding at one time - and that authorities were rushing to clean it up.

Sodium cyanide is a toxic chemical that can form a flammable gas upon contact with water.

Authorities also detected the highly toxic hydrogen cyanide in the air at levels slightly above safety levels at two locations in the afternoon, The Paper cited Tianjin environmental official Wen Wurui as saying. But the contamination was no longer detected later Saturday and there was no obvious impact on anybody in the area, the report said.

The disaster has raised questions about whether dangerous chemicals were being stored too close to residential compounds, and whether firefighters may have triggered the blasts, possibly because they were unaware the warehouse contained chemicals combustible on contact with water. The massive explosions Wednesday happened about 40 minutes after reports of a fire at the warehouse and after an initial wave of firefighters arrived and, reportedly, doused some of the area with water.

Authorities on Saturday pulled out one survivor from a shipping container, state media reported. His identity was not immediately known. Television video showed the man being carried out on a sketcher by a group of soldiers wearing gas masks.

Authorities were keeping residents, journalists and other people not involved in the disaster response outside a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) radius around the site of the explosions in what media reports said was an operation to clean up the sodium cyanide.

Flames were spotted in the disaster area on Saturday, and explosions were reported by witnesses and state media.

In one case, heavy smoke from a fire engulfing several cars rose as high as 10 meters (yards), accompanied by at least five explosions.

Police and military personnel manned checkpoints on roads leading to the blast sites, and helicopters were seen hovering in the overcast sky. The air had a metallic chemical smell, and there was uneasiness over rain forecasts, although it was warm and windy.

Meanwhile, family members of missing firefighters disrupted the latest news conference about the disaster, demanding to know whether their loved ones were still alive.

"(The authorities) didn't notify us at all," said Liu Huan, whose son Liu Chuntao has been missing since late Wednesday. "Our son is a firefighter, and there was a team of firefighters who lost contact. We couldn't contact him."

Liu Longwang said she had not heard a word on her son Liu Ziqiao, also a firefighter. "We are extremely worried," she said. "He just turned 18."

State media reported that the casualties of the first three squads of firefighters to respond and of a neighborhood police station have not yet been fully determined, suggesting that the death toll could rise further.

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

One surviving firefighter, 19-year-old Zhou Ti, was found Friday morning and taken to a hospital. Zhou Ti and Zhou Tian are unrelated.

Li Yonghan, a doctor at Teda Hospital, called Zhou's survival "miraculous" and said Zhou escaped death mainly because he was covered by his fallen comrades. Zhou had massive injuries, including burns and leg cuts.

From his hospital bed, Zhou told state broadcaster CCTV that the fire was spreading out of control. "I was knocked onto the ground at the first blast," recalled Zhou, his eyes swollen and closed. "I covered my head and don't know what happened after that."

Lin Yujie, who lives in a nearby residential complex, said when he initially heard the blasts Wednesday night he thought they were a massive air strike.

"It was just a sea of fire," Lin recalled. "We were really worried that there would be a second or third explosion and what we would do then."

As details of the blasts and the rescue efforts surface, members of the public have been raising questions about whether fire commanders had erred in prematurely sending firefighters into a highly dangerous zone and using water to put out flames on the site known to have stored a variety of hazardous chemicals, including sodium cyanide and calcium carbide, which become flammable on contact with water.

Local officials also have been hard-pressed to explain why authorities permitted hazardous goods warehouses so close to residential complexes and critical infrastructure, clearly in violation of the Chinese rule that hazmat storage should be 1,000 meters (yards) away from homes and public structures.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, offered his prayers to the victims of the disaster. "I assure my prayers for those who lost their lives and for all those persons tried by this disaster," he said Saturday in remarks to thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Francis made the remarks despite a tense relationship between Beijing and the Vatican.

___

Associated Press videojournalists Paul Traynor and Peng Peng in Tianjin and writers Didi Tang and Ian Mader in Beijing and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.

More from AOL.com:
Lightning strikes 40 army students during lightning protection drills
Suspect dead in Staten Island standoff sparked by firefighter shooting
Ecuador's Cotopaxi volcano spews ash south of Quito
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.