Last night two huge explosions rocked Tianjin at around 11.30pm. The official death count stands at 44, including 12 firefighters, and over 500 people are reported injured, according to China Daily and CNN. For breaking news on this story, see the Beijinger.
beijingkids spoke to Monica Andrews, a Canadian teacher who witnessed the incident from her high rise apartment. Andrews has been living in Tianjin for the past two years, and teaches Social Studies at Maple Leaf International School in Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA). She says she was woken by a loud boom at 11.30pm, and went to the window of her apartment. The sky over the port was a bright, glowing red. Shortly after she saw the second blast, which threw a mushroom cloud of smoke and debris into the sky to the south.
Temporary accommodations at a local elementary school
Many of Andrew’s neighbors attempted to leave the area. “There were cars everywhere, causing a huge traffic jam. People were also fleeing on foot. A lot of people thought it was an earthquake,” she says.
Andrew’s apartment was structurally fine – although her windows flexed and shook, her building sustained no discernible damage. Most other buildings along 3rd avenue where Andrews lives and where the Maple Leaf International School is located sustained blast damage. Andrews believes her complex was spared due to high rise buildings a few blocks south absorbing the impact of the explosions.
Damage to the school’s interior
Hundreds of students were staying at the Maple Leaf International School campus dormitories, attending summer school there. Andrews began messaging students immediately to check that they were ok. “The school is a lot older, and perhaps not as protected by other buildings, so it sustained a lot more damage,” says Andrews. “The blast obliterated all the windows, the south facing windows have caved in, and some of the ceilings have collapsed.” Thankfully none of the students staying at the school’s dormitories were injured. Andrews walked to the school to check on the students, and witnessed the aftermath firsthand. The street was littered with glass, car windows were smashed, and she saw a man covered in blood who was unresponsive to her questions.
External doors and windows blown inwards by the explosions
The school has been evacuated and all of the summer school’s students have been sent home. Those from outside Tianjin are staying with faculty and friends or at nearby hotels who are providing accommodation for free. Andrews is herself temporarily hosting a student from Hebei province until her parents can come and pick her up later today. Temporary accommodations are also available at a nearby elementary school which has set up tents on their soccer pitch, providing people with food, water, and shelter.
Damage to the facade of school buildings
“Most people between 6th Avenue and 10th Avenue are homeless,” says Andrews. Many of the buildings closer to the port don’t have electricity, most have their windows smashed, and tenants have been refused access to buildings until they are deemed structurally safe. At the school, those classrooms not directly facing the blast seem fine, but Andrews says that an assessment on safety can’t be made until everything has been cleaned up.
Smoke rising from the site of the port explosions at noon today, as seen from Andrew’s apartment
At noon today Andrews reported a marked increase in the volume of smoke coming from the site of the explosions. “The fire is clearly still raging,” she says.
Photos: Courtesy of Monica Andrews, weibo.com