At least 400 people gather for “spontaneous protests” in Tianjin condemning government response to the incident.
Dozens of angry residents whose homes were badly damaged by huge explosions last week in China’s northeastern port city of Tianjin, have accused the government of ignoring their plight and have demanded compensation.
Around 40 residents, holding signs that read “buy back (our homes)”, gathered outside a hotel on Tuesday where an official news conference was being held and demanded compensation after their residential apartments were damaged by two huge blasts that ripped through an industrial zone late last Wednesday killing over 100 people.
Estate management (people) kept saying that they are in negotiation. But now we think it's all nonsense, they just lie to everyone
“Estate management (people) kept saying that they are in negotiation. But now we think it’s all nonsense, they just lie to everyone,” said 35-year-old resident Fang Qi.
“We, the owners of the properties, went to the office of the letter and complaints bureau yesterday and found out the information that our community had not been reported on, nobody knew it, so they treated it as a de-populated zone.”
The explosions sent massive fireballs into the sky and hurled burning debris across the industrial area at the world’s 10th-largest port, burning out buildings and shattering windows kilometres away.
More than 700 people were injured in the blast and 70 are still missing, most of them fire fighters, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Another resident, 35-year-old Cai Jiaqi said he was very worried about the overall structure of his home, after the strong shake.
“We don’t want to live there anymore. So (we) hope the government can buy back (our homes).”
On Monday, residents gathered to hold a candlelight vigil outside a hospital to commemorate those killed. Volunteers lit candles spelling out 8.12, the date of the blast, as well as the Chinese characters for peace before holding three minutes of silence and a flower laying ceremony.
Family members of the missing and those made homeless demanded answers from the government. An estimated 400 people gathered for “spontaneous protests”, echoing largescale frustation over the handling of the disaster.
Chinese authorities have moved to limit criticism of the handling of the blasts by suspending or shutting down dozens of websites and hundreds of social media accounts.
Soldiers and rescue workers in gas masks and hazard suits continued to search for toxic materials at the blast site. The goal is to clear the chemicals before any rain falls, which could create further toxic gas.
Officials said environmental standards were still “basically guaranteed” and that there were contingency plans to prevent possible rainfall from creating dangerous gases or spreading contamination.
Some 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts.
China’s top prosecutor, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, has opened an investigation into the
Authorities in Tianjin have faced criticism over failing to uphold regulations surrounding the site’s operation, notably requirements that warehouses stocking dangerous materials be at least one kilometre from surrounding public buildings and main roads.
Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Tianjin, said the latest incident has placed renewed attention on China’s “appalling safety record” in areas of industrial safety.
“This is the 12th incident involving chemicals in China this year. And the sad thing is, people are no longer surprised by events like this.The question is whether things would be different this time in terms of the investigation that has now begun.”
Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China after three decades of fast economic growth.