President Xi Jinping has called on rescue crews at the site of the deadly Tianjin blasts to not let up with their efforts and for agencies to train their focus on effective follow-up measures.
According to a statement issued after the meeting of the Political Bureau Standing Committee on Thursday, the nation's top leaders demanded a thorough investigation into the cause of the Aug 12 blasts, which destroyed a warehouse in the Tianjin Binhai New Area that stored hazardous chemicals, including about 700 metric tons of sodium cyanide.
The blasts have so far claimed the lives of 114 people, seven of whom have not yet been identified, and left 69 missing.
Saving lives and treating the injured should be given priority, according to the statement. The rescue team should carefully check the blast zone and surrounding area, and not give up on missing people, it said.
The statement stressed that remaining hazardous chemicals must be properly removed to avoid further accidents.
According to Tian Weiyong, director of the Ministry of Environmental Protection's Environment Emergency Center, eight of 16 water monitoring stations in the core blast zone have detected concentrations of highly toxic cyanide compounds exceeding the national standard, with the highest being 356 times the standard.
"But all the polluted water will be kept within the zone until it has been properly handled," Tian said, adding that tests showed water outside the blast zone was within the national standard.
"Vehicles transporting polluted water and chemicals will also be cleaned before leaving the zone to avoid any contamination."
Given the vast variety of dangerous chemicals and their complicated placement, no deadline for the cleanup could be given, He Shushan, vice-mayor of Tianjin in charge of work safety, said on Tuesday.
Authorities have been ordered to monitor air, soil and water quality near the site around the clock. Emergency response plans should be made to prevent major accidents that cause pollution, the statement said.
Armed police and public security officers as well as firefighters have made great sacrifices in responding to the incident, the statement said.
Whoever is responsible for the accident will face punishment in accordance with the law, it said, adding that penalties will be meted out to those found guilty of dereliction of duty and breaking the law.
Photos taken on Thursday showing large quantities of dead fish about 4 kilometers from the blast site immediately went viral.
In response, the Tianjin Environment Monitoring Center sampled the water on Thursday evening and found no cyanide, the centre reported on its website.
It is not the first time this summer that a large amount of dead fish has been found in Tianjin, and the authority will give more detailed information about this incident as soon as it is available, said Deng Xiaowen, head of the centre.