Authorities in Tianjin have assured that the rainfall in the city yesterday was not toxic, after images showing the wet streets covered in an unidentified white foam circulated online.
Yesterday’s was the first bout of rain to hit Tianjian since a series of explosions ripped through a storage warehouse in the Binhai district last week. The Ruihai International Logistics warehouse stored hazardous material including 700 tons of sodium cyanide, 800 tons of ammonium nitrate and 500 tons of potassium.
Authorities had previously expressed concern about rainfall causing a chemical reaction and spreading pollutants across the city, and when local residents uploaded pictures of the roads and sidewalks covered in a mysterious foamy substance after a shower yesterday, people began to speculate that it may be harmful.
Some people cited in local media reports said that the rain had caused a burning sensation on their face and lips, while others reported stinging and itching sensations on their arms.
Bao Jingling, chief engineer of the municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, said at a press conference today that the rain water has been deemed safe.
“We went to the reported place and sampled the water and soil. The test result matches with national standard. The water does not pose harm to the citizens,” Bao was quoted as saying in a China Daily report.
Soil samples taken by the Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau showed 0.33 mg/kg of cyanide present, while 0.137 mg/kg of cyanide was detected in water and white foam samples. All of these readings are within normal level, according to the bureau.
Bao added that he and his colleagues had stood in the rain for 10 minutes and felt no negative reactions to their skin.
“If any such case does arise, it will be very helpful that people report us the time and location,” he said. “I advise them to go to hospital. We’ve received no reports of poisoning from the hospital so far.”
So what was the white foam seen flowing down the streets of Tianjin yesterday? Deng Xiaowen, director of Tianjin’s environmental monitoring center, said in an SCMP report that it was “a normal phenomenon when rain falls, and similar things have occurred before”.
“We believe the white foam might be caused by dust from the blasts,” was the explanation given by Bao. “So far, our monitoring data has been staying at normal levels”.
The death toll from last week’s blasts remains at 114, with 65 people still missing. Police have identified 101 bodies, including 53 firefighters, seven fellow officers and 41 others.