China clearing blast site, military checking storage


China: Clean Up Begins at Chemical Blast Site

TIANJIN, China (AP) — Chinese workers in protective suits began clearing wreckage on Thursday, including charred car bodies and crumpled shipping containers, from the site of a chemical warehouse that exploded last week, killing at least 114.

Officials have ordered nationwide checks on dangerous materials, and the Chinese military said it was inspecting storage measures for weapons, ammunition, and fuel as well as chemical, explosive and toxic materials, the official newspaper People's Liberation Army Daily reported.

Training in the handling of such materials and in executing emergency response plans will also be stepped up, the newspaper said.

Driving home the importance of such efforts, President Xi Jinping and other top leaders gathered in Beijing to hear a report on progress in investigating the disaster.

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China clearing blast site, military checking storage
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)
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Tianjin Binhai New Area exploded. suspected to be a gas station http://t.co/ko7cEsCGmO
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"Lately, in some places there have been major industrial safety accidents, one after the other, revealing yet again that problems in the area of industrial safety remain prominent and grave," said a statement issued after the meeting.

Safety work needs to be improved and attitudes need to change to "contain the outbreak of major accidents, bring about a fundamental improvement in industrial safety and safeguard the lives and property of the masses of the people," the statement read.

Along with safety violations, official corruption was added as a contributing cause of the Aug. 12 disaster in the port city of Tianjin following revelations Wednesday that the son of a former police chief, one of two silent owners of the warehouse, used his connections to help obtain licenses despite safety violations.

The other owner is a former executive at a state-owned chemical company who also used his connections to smooth the way for approval for the facility run by Ruihai International Logistics, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The explosions that rocked the port city of Tianjin were among China's worst industrial accidents in recent years and the deadliest on record for the country's firefighters, who accounted for 102 of the 179 total dead and missing. Authorities say almost 700 people remain hospitalized, while 30,000 people in and around the area have had their lives turned upside down by the disaster.

A key question is why the warehouse was able to store toxic chemicals, including sodium cyanide, ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, even though it was located less than the required 1,000 meters (yards) from homes and public roads — a clear violation of state safety rules.

One explanation offered by the silent owners, identified as former SinoChem executive Yu Xuewei and the late Tianjin port police chief's son, Dong Shexuan, is that they shopped around until they found a licensed safety inspection company that would give its approval.

The two are among at least 10 people reportedly taken into custody, including top officials of the warehouse's management company.

China's Cabinet has pledged that its investigation will find the cause of the blast, assign responsibility and recommend punishment. After days without a statement, Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo appeared at a news conference Wednesday saying he would take ultimate responsibility for the disaster.

Additionally, the head of the government body in charge of industrial safety, Yang Dongliang, has been placed under investigation for corruption. Yang had previously worked for 18 years in Tianjin in state industry and local government, rising to executive vice mayor. His son has also reportedly been taken in for questioning.

Homeowners have protested daily on city streets demanding that the government compensate them for damaged homes that they fear are now unlivable because of chemical contamination.

"How are we supposed to live in this ghost town now," said resident Niu Guijun. "If the government insists on telling us that there's no problem, they're welcome to move in and we'll let the officials live there free of charge."

___

Associated Press video journalist Wong Wai-bor in Tianjin and writers Christopher Bodeen, Ian Mader and Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.

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