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Tianjin explosions: Death toll climbs past 50, 17 firefighters among dead

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware

TIANJIN, China, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- As expected, the death toll from the powerful explosions in Tianjin, China, climbed past 50 Thursday, officials said -- and the toll for firefighters is now approaching two dozen.

According to state-run media, 17 firefighters have been confirmed dead and more than 700 were wounded in the blasts, which measured a magnitude near 3.0 when they occurred late Wednesday.

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A positive report emerged from the port city Thursday, though, as officials told reporters a 19-year-old firefighter was rescued after he was burned in the aftermath of the explosions.

Also, officials said about 70 of the injured remain in critical condition.

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Firefighters were responding to a fire report at the Ruihai warehouse in Tianjin's Binhai New Area at about 10:50 p.m. local time. The warehouse stored "dangerous and chemical goods," which slowed down firefighters' efforts.

At about 11:30 p.m., an explosion rocked Tianjin with a second, more powerful explosion following seconds later. A fireball shot into the sky that could be seen from space. Hundreds of cars were burnt, office blocks were destroyed and buildings within a radius of 1.5 miles had windows blown out.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Thursday promised the best medical treatment possible for those injured n Tianjin and wished them early recovery during her visit to hospitals, the Xinhua news agency reported.

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The warehouse was owned by Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co. Ltd., founded in 2011, which stores and distributes containers of "dangerous goods" at Tianjin's port. Executives of the company are being interrogated by Chinese authorities.

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Photographs and video taken in the aftermath of the blasts showed large-scale damage to infrastructure and a lot full of brand new vehicles. Several buildings collapsed due to the explosions, state news media reported.

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