Around 100 people whose homes were damaged in a deadly explosion in the Chinese port of Tianjin have gathered for a protest to demand compensation from the government.
The death toll from the disaster last Wednesday stands at 114 with 70 still missing.
The blasts stared at a warehouse for hazardous material, where hundreds of tons of sodium cyanide – a toxic chemical that can form combustible substances on contact with water – were being stored in amounts that violated safety rules.
It prompted contamination fears and a major clean-up of a 1.8-mile radius, cordoned off area in the city south-east of Beijing.
Chinese work safety rules require such facilities to be at least 1,000 metres away from residences, public buildings and highways. But online map searches show the Ruihai International Logistics warehouse was within 500 metres of both an expressway and a 100,000-square-metre apartment complex.
The apartments had walls singed and windows shattered, and all the residents have been evacuated.
“We victims demand: Government, buy back our houses,” said a banner carried by the residents at a protest outside the Tianjin hotel where officials have held daily news conferences about the disaster. “Kids are asking: How can we grow up healthy?” read another banner.
Authorities confirmed there were “several hundred” tons of the toxic chemical sodium cyanide on the site at the time of the blasts, although they said there have not been any substantial leaks. Authorities also said they had sealed all waterways leading into the sea from the blast site.
Sodium cyanide is a toxic chemical that can form a flammable gas upon contact with water, and several hundred tonnes would be a clear violation of rules cited by state media that the warehouse could store no more than 10 tonnes at a time.
Tianjin officials have ordered a city-wide check on any potential safety risks and violation of fire rules, mandating suspension of operations for factories that cannot immediately comply with safety rules. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was in Tianjin on Sunday, visiting those injured and displaced by the disaster.
The death toll includes at least 21 firefighters – making the disaster the deadliest for Chinese firefighters in more than six decades.