A man wears a mask as he walks past the charred remnants of new cars in a lot near the site of a warehouse explosion in Tianjin, northeastern China. (Ng Han Guan / AP)

Dangerous levels of the chemical sodium cyanide have been found at wastewater monitoring facilities in the disaster-stricken city of Tianjin, China, almost five days after deadly explosions killed at least 114 people.

The blasts reduced an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city to a “debris-strewn wasteland,” reports The Guardian:

At a press conference on Monday morning, Bao Jingling, the chief engineer from Tianjin’s environmental protection bureau, said excessive levels of the toxic chemical had been detected in surface wastewater at the blast site. The highest levels detected were 27 times acceptable limits.

Prosecutors have been ordered to investigate possible dereliction of duty and abuse of power that may have contributed to Wednesday night’s blasts. “We must thoroughly investigate [the incident] and hold accountable all those responsible,” state media quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying. …

The explosions came after a fire broke out at a warehouse where as yet unknown quantities of hazardous chemicals including sodium cyanide are thought to have been stored.

Exposure to sodium cyanide – a white crystalline or granular powder with a variety of industrial uses – can be “rapidly fatal”, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many are angry that the government allowed a warehouse storing hazardous chemicals to operate near residential neighborhoods where thousands lived.

“Nobody told us that there were chemicals, or I would never have chosen to live here,” Liu Xuerui, 27, a local resident whose home was damaged, told the China Daily.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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