Tianjin explosion kills 17; Firefighting efforts suspended
Firefighting efforts have been suspended after two massive explosions ripped through a Tianjin warehouse in China.
It has been reported that the blasts have already killed 44 people and injured as many as 500.
Nine firefighters have been confirmed dead, although it was not immediately clear if they are among the 44.
The Beijing News reported earlier that authorities had lost contact with 36 firefighters at the scene of the blasts.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that they have not received any reports of Singaporeans who have sustained heavy injuries from the blast.
An MFA spokesman said: "Late last night, our Embassy in Beijing activated its warden system in Tianjin to ascertain the safety of 79 registered Singaporeans near the incident area, including those working at the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, which is located 16km away from the blast site. As of 10am (Aug 13), we have managed to contact almost all the registered Singaporeans."
The spokesman also added that they will remain in close contact with the Tianjin authorities until all registered Singaporeans are accounted for.
"We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and wish the injured a full and speedy recovery," said the spokesman.
One resident Du Wenjun in the area told AFP that he saw a "mushroom cloud" outside the window of his home.
He also said that he felt strong jolts and saw a huge column of smoke not far away.
Local news reported that the magnitude of the first explosion was the equivalent of detonating three tonnes of TNT and a second stronger blast equal to detonating 21 tonnes of the explosive.
Sources: AFP, Reuters, Xinhua