Courts hand out prison terms for Tianjin blast

Article by Staff Writer

FORTY-NINE people have been given prison sentences for their involvement in the devastating Tianjin chemicals blast in China last year that killed 173 people.

Rulings handed out by courts in the Tianjin municipality this week saw 24 company workers and 25 government officials sentenced, China’s state news agency Xinhua reports. This includes a two-year suspended death sentence for Yu Xuewei, chairman of Ruihai Logistics, whose company owned the warehouse where the deadly blast occurred.

Yu was found guilty of bribing port administration officials to gain a certificate to handle hazardous chemicals at the port. He was convicted of the illegal storage of hazardous materials, illegal business operations, causing incidents involving hazardous materials, and bribery.

On 12 August 2015, a fire started in a container as hot weather evaporated a wetting agent keeping nitro-cotton damp. Once dry it auto-ignited and the fire spread to other chemicals stored at the site including ammonium nitrate which detonated with devastating consequences. The blast killed 165 people - eight remain missing – and injured 798. It also damaged 304 buildings, 12,428 cars, and 7,533 shipping containers, causing economic losses worth more than US$1bn, Xinhua reports.

In February, Chinese government investigators blamed mismanagement, corruption and slack government oversight for the incident.

Those now sentenced include 25 officials who were handed prison terms ranging from three to seven years for dereliction of duty, abuse of power and accepting bribes. The seven Ruihai staff deemed directly responsible for the blast were sentenced to between three and ten years.

Article by Staff Writer

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