On August 12, 2015, a series of chemical explosions in Tianjin, China sent a massive fireball into the sky. The ensuing gulf of fire blazed for hours. Shocking images and video recordings of the apocalyptic scene streamed across the internet. The explosion killed 112 people. More than 500 people were hospitalized as a result of the explosion and at least 34 people are still missing. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, leaving thousands with nowhere to go.
Frighteningly the exact cause of the explosion remains unknown. Chinese prosecutors suspect the explosion was caused by the construction of a hazardous chemical warehouse in the port “despite knowing the location broke safety regulations” and did not “pass safety checks though it did not meet the required standards” (see BBC article “Tianjin Officials Suspected of Negligence Over Port Explosion.”)
The company that owned the explosion site had a license to handle dangerous chemicals but only since June. Their prior license lapsed in October. “After the first license expired, we applied for an extension. We did not cease operation because we did not think it was a problem. Many other companies have continued working without a license,” Yu Xuewei, chairman of Rui Hai International Logistics, was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying.
The exact environmental ramifications of the explosion are still unknown. However, it is clear that there is an ongoing need for workplace safety measures. Even though these explosions took place in China, North Carolina has suffered multiple serious explosions in the past decade. The explosions at the ConAgra plant in Garner in 2009 and the Environmental Quality Industrial Services facility in Apex in 2006, illustrate how important it is to closely monitor operations.