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New Fires Break Out at China Explosion Site

Four new fires reported amid news of excessive cynanide levels in water after Tianjin explosions

Dead fish are seen on the banks of Haihe river at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

New fires erupted Friday near the site of last week's deadly Tianjin warehouse blasts—a disaster, according to one human rights expert, that further shows need for transparency regarding hazardous substances.

Firefighters were working to contain the fires, three of which occurred near the blast site, state-run Xinhua News Agency reports.  The fourth broke out at a parking lot near the blast area.

The report of the new fires comes a day after the Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau said that levels of a toxic chemical in waters near the site were far above safe levels.

"An excessive level of cyanide was detected in eight locations with the highest reaching 356 times" the permitted level, the bureau said.

Seven hundreds tons of sodium cyanide had been stored at the warehouse, among other hazardous chemicals.

Also this week, thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of the Haihe River, near the site of the explosions.

Deng Xiaowen, director of the Tianjin Environmental Monitoring Center, attributed the large number of dead fish to hypoxia as a result of high temperatures.

But that's not an explanation quelling the fears of some locals. From the New York Times:

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Wang Lei (47), a freight company manager who wore a face mask as he surveyed the putrid mass of dead fish clogging the river’s rocky shallows.

“There has to be a link between the dead fish and the blast. What else could explain the death of so many?”

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, stated Wednesday, "This chemical disaster serves as yet another tragic example of the need of information about hazardous substances to protect, respect and realize human rights."

Underscoring the need for transparency, he said, "The lack of information when needed—information that could have mitigated or perhaps even prevented this disaster—is truly tragic.

"Moreover, the reported restrictions on public access to health and safety information and freedom of the press in the aftermath are deeply disturbing, particularly to the extent it risks increasing the number of victims of this disaster," he continued.

Xinhua reports that the death toll from the Aug. 12 blasts stands at over 100, with hundreds more hospitalized and scores still missing.

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