Just in time for the whole country to shut down for the long Chinese New Year holiday, China has finally released its official report on what exactly went so wrong in August 2015 that resulted in massive chemical explosions at a warehouse in Tianjin killing 165 people and injuring 798.
The investigation panel led by China’s State Council found that more than 11,300 tons of hazardous goods were illegally stored at a warehouse owned by Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics on the night of the explosions. That number includes more than 1,000 tons of “highly explosive and combustible” substances including 800 tons of ammonium nitrate, 680 tons of sodium cyanide, and 290 tons of nitro-cotton.
Here’s their explanation for how the explosion first started:
The investigators concluded that the double blasts were caused due to spontaneous combustion of nitro-cotton in a container, which lacked a wetting agent that would have prevented the explosion. The nitro-cotton had self-ignited under high temperature, causing large areas of combustion. The flame further ignited dangerous chemicals, including the explosive ammonium nitrate, triggering the explosions.
The report estimates that the explosions caused 6.87 billion yuan ($1.04 billion) in losses. The tragic statistics read: 165 died, 8 missing and 798 injured; 304 buildings, 12,428 vehicles and 7,533 containers damaged or destroyed.
Investigators aren’t holding only Tianjin Ruihai responsible for the blast. They are also pointing their finger toward local authorities across a wide range of departments (transportation, port, customs, supervision and public security) who widely flouted laws and regulations. “Daily oversight and management were seriously lacking,” the report explains.
A total of 49 people have been detained (24 from Ruihai, 25 from the government) in connection with the blasts, though it’s not clear what they will be charged with yet. Meanwhile, investigators also suggest action against 123 people in total.
The report also dismissed popular claims, made by firefighters and netizens, that spraying water on the first blast had in fact only worked to create more explosions and further drive the blaze.
While areas outside of ground zero have been unaffected, the blast site itself is still severely contaminated, the report says. It’s unclear what this means for the planned eco-park.