The Crisis Continues: First Rain After Tianjin Warehouse Explosion

A large amount of unknown white foam covers the streets of Tianjin. (Image:
A large amount of unknown white foam covers the streets of Tianjin. (Image:

One week has passed since the deadly explosion in Tianjin that happened at midnight on August 12. Two massive explosions took place in a warehouse at the Dongjiang Port of Tianjin City. The warehouse stored over 40 different types of hazardous chemicals, which included 700 tons of sodium cyanide, 800 tons of ammonium nitrate, and 500 tons of potassium nitrate, according to local reports.

According to The Guardian, officials announced at a press conference on Tuesday morning that 83 of the 114 dead have now been identified, with more than 700 injured and 57 people still missing, most of them firefighters.

Now that rain has hit the site for the first time, it’s raised fears this could set off more chemical reactions.

This could potentially create toxic gas, endanger local residents, and slow the rescue efforts. People in Tianjin have witnessed an unknown white foam that is covering the ground.


Liu Bolin imbeds himself and others into the photograph, declaring their position as individuals within the catastrophic incident, thus calling viewer’s attention to the aftermath and investigation of the disaster. Through recreating the imagery of the damage and devastation caused by the explosion, the project is Liu’s attempt to reveal social issues in China, as well as to reflect on the complex relationship between the past and the present, the reality and the illusion, as well as individuality and society. (Image: Liu Bolin)

Military inspections at the blast site Sunday revealed “several hundred tons of cyanide material” at two locations, said Major General Shi Luze. Authorities are checking customs records for more clues as to exactly what was being held, CNN reported.

Large area of foams were formed in the rain. (Image:

Large areas of foam were formed from the rain. (Image:

“Sodium cyanide is a very toxic chemical. It would take about a quarter of teaspoon to kill you. Another problem with sodium cyanide is that it can change into prussic acid, which is even more deadly. So the whole business in trying to clean up this mess is difficult,” chemical risk consultant David Leggett told CNN.

According to Wangyi News, officials of the Environment Monitoring Center of Tianjin have responded by saying that they haven’t noticed anything abnormal at the 17 sites, and that the foam is normal rain.

However, with online posts from journalists and volunteers in Tianjin, it seems that the  official’s conclusion may not be right. The skin of some journalists and volunteers got itchy and painful after the rain fell. The skin on their faces and around their mouths felt like it was burning. Clearly, it is not normal rain, as the official said.

The red arm of a volunteer. (Image:

This volunteer’s arm turned red and lumpy after the rain touched it. (Image:


Injured skin after the rain. (Image:

The rain on the car.

The rain leaves white spots on plastics. (Image:

An expert from the Environmental Protection Department had later responded by saying that the white foam may contain alkaline chemicals. He also said that the white foam could be caused by the calcium carbide that was stored in the warehouse, or even the hydrogen peroxide that was used to treat the leaked sodium cyanide.

So far, there is no clear reason regarding the real cause of this explosion, and the owner of the warehouse has not come forward. Without this information, the local residents of Tianjin might have to keep living with the unknown threats left behind after the fire.

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