China explosion death toll hits 50

  • 14/08/2015
Fire engines are seen at the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district (Reuters)
Fire engines are seen at the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district (Reuters)

Thousands of burned-out cars lie in neat rows alongside mountains of crushed shipping containers, the smouldering frontline to enormous explosions that have paralysed one of China's most important ports and industrial zones.

The Binhai New Area in northern China, where the blasts killed more than 50 people and injured more than 700, is a giant logistics hub more than twice the size of Hong Kong.

It hosts auto plants, aircraft assembly lines, oil refineries and other service and production facilities, and describes itself as a "modern manufacturing and research base" on its website.

The area is home to one of the world's fastest supercomputers, which was shut down as a precaution after Wednesday night's huge blasts.

It is also a major automobile trans-shipment point where about 10,000 imported cars were destroyed, according to the Qilu Evening News, 2748 from German manufacturer Volkswagen.

A Volkswagen official said in an email to AFP that its vehicles had been damaged, but did not provide a figure, adding that it was "working to assess the extent of the damage".

An official with France's Renault, meanwhile, told AFP that at least 1500 of its vehicles had been destroyed.

Operations at the port of Tianjin were "basically paralysed" by the blast, the official China Securities Journal reported.

Resources giant BHP Billiton - for which China is a crucial market - said in a statement that its iron ore discharge berths were undamaged, with the closest 20km from the blast site.

But it said that "shipments and port operations have been disrupted" by the blast and it was working with its customers "to minimise any potential impact".

Europe's Airbus also said it was assessing the effect on port operations.

It has an assembly line for its popular A320 aircraft in the area and said on Thursday that the blast was far from the facility and caused no immediate damage.