Tianjin chemical blast: China jails 49 for disaster

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Blast left a large hole at the scene of the chemical explosion in Tianjin in August 2015Image source, EPA
Image caption,
A huge crater was created in the aftermath of the explosion

A Chinese court has handed a suspended death sentence to the head of a chemical factory for his role in blasts that killed 173 people last year.

Ruihai Logistics chairman Yu Xuewei was also fined more than 700,000 yuan (about $100,000) over the disaster in the eastern port city of Tianjin.

He is among 49 staff and government officials jailed for their role in the firm's illegal operations.

Most of the dead were firefighters and police. Eight bodies were never found.

The explosion was one of the deadliest industrial accidents in Chinese history and caused more than $1bn in estimated economic losses.

The Ruihai Logistics chairman was found guilty of paying bribes allowing his company to sidestep safety regulations when storing sodium cyanide and other dangerous chemicals.

Media caption,

Zhang Mengfan says the public deserves to know what happened in the Tianjin blasts

Others sentenced were found guilty on charges ranging from abuse of power to storing dangerous substances illegally.

An investigation found that stocks of flammable nitrocellulose - a chemical used in nail polish - had caught fire and spread to illegal stores of the fertiliser ammonium nitrate.

The blasts that were triggered ripped through an industrial port area in the city, destroying buildings, shipping containers and thousands of new cars.