Residents of Tianjin, China are reporting on social media the emergence of a strange foam throughout its streets following the first rainfall since a massive chemical explosion destroyed much of the city. Chinese officials are claiming the foam is safe, while announcing that at least ten corporate executives are being “controlled” for an investigation into the blast.
Photos have begun surfacing on social media of large puddles of white foam on the streets of Tianjin, believed to have been created when rain fell on the devastated city and mixed with residual chemicals. Since forecasts began to show potential rain falling, workers cleaning up the site began to raise concerns that the sodium cyanide believed to have caused the initial blast last Thursday could mix with water and create hydrogen cyanide, a deadly gas.
Individuals who came into contact with the foam reported feeling an itchy or burning sensation on their arms, lips, and face, Shanghaiist reports. Despite this, Chinese officials are saying the foam is not toxic. “We went to the reported place and sampled the water and soil. The test result matches with national standard. The water does not pose harm to the citizens,” said chief engineer Bao Jingling. “We believe the white foam might be caused by dust from the blasts,” he added, calling the level of chemicals in the air “normal.”
Another official, Deng Xiaowen, called the foam “a normal phenomenon when rain falls.”
CCTV reported the same news: that all chemical levels in areas outside the evacuation zone were “normal,” though noting that a small explosion occurred at the site on Monday once again.
Some experts have speculated that the large death toll of fire-fighters and first responders in the blast was partly due to firefighters attempting to use water to take out the first fire that surfaced, triggering explosive chemical reactions.
The Chinese government has promised a thorough investigation into the Rui Hai International Logistics Company, the corporation responsible for storing hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide in Tianjin. The government announced through state media this week that at least ten corporate executives are being “controlled” and investigated for corruption. Some believe officials were bribed to look the other way as the corporation stored hundreds of tons more of the chemical than legally allowed, in a densely populated urban zone. The chairman and vice chairman of Rui Hai are allegedly under police custody and have been since shortly after the blast last week.
In addition to attempting to identify and detain all those potentially responsible for the explosion, the Chinese government is attempting to crack down on media questioning the government’s investigation and claims that the city remains, at least in part, safe. At least 50 websites have been “punished,” state outlet Xinhua reported, for posting “rumors” regarding the health dangers of being in Tianjin, or incorrect death toll numbers. A high number of social media accounts have also been shut down for criticizing the Chinese government cleanup efforts.