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As China Blast Toll Rises to 44, Fears Mount Over Chemical Contamination | TIME
TIANJIN, CHINA - AUGUST 13: (CHINA OUT) Burnt car debris continues to burn following the explosion of a warehouse in Binhai New Area on August 13, 2015 in Tianjin, China. At least 17 people dead, 32 are in critical condition and at least another 400 injured during the explosions of a warehouse on late Wednesday in Binhai New Area in Tianjin, according to police authority. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

As China Blast Toll Rises to 44, Fears Mount Over Chemical Contamination | TIME

Rescue operations have been suspended while teams scan the area for harmful chemicals

An environmental expert says evacuation of the area around Wednesday’s mammoth warehouse blast in the Chinese port city of Tianjin is the “main priority,” and warned of the explosion’s long term consequences.

His words came as the death toll continued to rise, with at least 44 people dead and 520 others hospitalized, of which 66 are in critical condition, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported Thursday afternoon. Several of the dead are reportedly firefighters.

“With a blast like this, normally you would expect the transport [of particulate matter] to be along the wind gradient or contours, but a blast this big must push it beyond that in the opposite direction,” Ravi Naidu, Director of the Global Centre for Environmental Remediation at the University of Newcastle Australia, told TIME. “Not just people but animals and other organisms would be exposed to certain chemicals.”

Rescue operations have been temporarily suspended while chemical teams scan the area for harmful materials as fears of airborne toxins mount.

Source: As China Blast Toll Rises to 44, Fears Mount Over Chemical Contamination | TIME