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50 Dead, 701 Injured in Chinese Port Explosion

Fifty people have been confirmed dead and more than 700 injured after a series of huge explosions Wednesday at a warehouse in the Chinese port city of Tianjin.

According to state media, the blasts began around 11:30 p.m. local time when a container of “hazardous material” exploded in a warehouse owned by Tianjin Dongjiang Port Rui Hai International Logistics Co.

China’s earthquake center said in an official post on social media that two of the explosions measured at magnitudes of 2.3 and 2.9—the second was the equivalent of about 21 tons of TNT exploding. Their impacts could be felt as far as six miles away, smashing windows of surrounding buildings, while the blazing fire that followed torched hundreds of vehicles stored nearby.

On Thursday, the city government said that 701 people had been hospitalized with burns, cuts and other wounds, including 71 with critical injuries, and that the death toll included 17 firefighters. No figure was given for those missing.

Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, is roughly 120 kilometers from Beijing. It’s the tenth busiest and third biggest port in the world, serving 189 countries and trading in cargo including metal ore, coal, steel, cars and crude oil. It’s also home to manufacturing operations for such companies as Deere & Co. and Caterpillar Inc.

As of 11:22 a.m. local time, the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration said vessels weren’t being fully allowed into the northern part of the port where the blast hit, and many roads were blocked off around the city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for “all-out efforts” to save the injured and minimize casualties, and has promised a full investigation into the incident.