Fish die-off puts Tianjin residents on edge

Fish die-off puts Tianjin residents on edge
Dead fish are seen on the banks of Haihe river at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 20, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING - Massive amounts of dead fish washed up Thursday on the banks of a river near the site of the Tianjin explosions, fueling residents' worries over possible contamination.

Locals posted photos to microblogs in the afternoon. The Hai River is just 6km from the Tianjin port where warehouse facilities containing toxic chemicals exploded Aug. 12. The blasts have killed 116 and left 60 missing, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Friday. Ten days after the explosions, their cause and the full extent of the damage are still unknown.

Residents are increasingly uneasy about the aftereffects, particularly lingering pollution. At ground zero, a massive crater 100 meters in diameter holds 50,000 tons of tainted water. People fear that this toxic brew could seep into groundwater and that the chemicals could spread through the air.

In an apparent effort to put such concerns to rest, the government-backed CCTV said Friday that cyanide compounds were not detected in the part of the river where the dead fish were found floating. It instead blamed the die-off on a lack of oxygen due to high temperatures.

But days earlier, CCTV had reported that toxic nerve gas had been detected at the blast site. This news item was eventually deleted from its website after Tianjin authorities told journalists Wednesday that harmful gases were not found.

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