Singapore firm evacuates warehouse

TIANJIN - Singapore logistics firm YCH Group yesterday evacuated its warehouse near the deadly blast site in Tianjin after many of the building's windows were shattered or blown out, and part of its ceiling collapsed.

It also told about 200 of its workers not to come to work until the situation stabilises, said the manager of the firm's Tianjin office, who wanted to be known only as Mr Zhang.

"Our headquarters wanted us to clear out the area as it's close to the blast site, and the situation there is still unclear," he said. "But at least none of our workers was injured."

YCH is one of several Singapore firms with operations in Tianjin affected by the massive twin explosions that rocked the northern Chinese port city on Wednesday night.

Mr Colin Poh, founder of online directory Sgbizsearch, told The Straits Times that his office, about 4km from the site of the blast, sustained light damage, such as broken windows. "The physical damage to our office is minimal but the blasts will definitely affect our business because if the air quality turns hazardous due to the chemicals involved in the blast, we may have to evacuate our staff," he said.

"We've also had to put some meetings we were planning with potential partners on hold," he added.

Other Singaporeans living in the Binhai area, which is near the water, also spoke of their panic when the violent explosions unleashed a gigantic fireball that lit up the night sky.

"There were strong tremors and the building was shaking very badly," said a Singaporean who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan. "I immediately packed my things and headed down to the lobby. "

Her apartment, which had one of its windows shattered, was about 2km from the explosion site.

Ms Tan has since moved to a hotel, about an hour away in the old city of Tianjin, while awaiting repairs to her damaged home.

Many other foreign companies were also trying to assess the damage to their facilities in and around the devastated industrial landscape that is home to the world's 10th largest port by container volume.

French carmaker Renault said more than 1,000 of its cars were damaged but no workers were hurt. Around 4,000 cars belonging to Hyundai were also at the site but the level of damage had not yet been assessed, a spokesman said, according to a Reuters report.

This article was first published on Aug 15, 2015.
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