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A Chinese millionaire tried to help Tianjin—and ended up in the hospital

Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army anti-chemical warfare corps work next to a damaged firefighting vehicle at the site of Wednesday night's explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 16, 2015.
By Nikhil Sonnad
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Chen Guangbiao’s latest publicity stunt has backfired.

The Chinese millionaire—who made his fortune recycling construction waste—is known for eccentric self-promotion and bold philanthropy. After an earthquake rocked Sichuan province in 2008, Chen showed up with heavy machinery and employees to aid in the cleanup.

He tried something similar following the massive chemical explosion in the city of Tianjin last week that has left over a hundred people dead, and counting.

Chen swept in, again with heavy machinery, to lend a hand to clean-up efforts. Chinese reports suggested that Chen’s equipment was more powerful than anything the government had provided. Here he is being a good citizen, and garnering some good PR as well:

IFeng News
Chen doing his part.

After being in the city for just 30 hours, however, Chen started to complain of chest pain. He was promptly hospitalized (link in Chinese), diagnosed with “moderate poisoning.” Authorities ordered the evacuation of residents within three kilometers of the explosion after police found scary amounts of deadly sodium cyanide in the area.

Cynics might say Chen was punished for trying to capitalize on the tragedy. But while he can be sensationalist, Chen has done real good in the past: he regularly donates cash for those affected by disasters natural and man-made.

What’s more, the story of his arrival and prompt hospitalization shows just how scary the situation in Tianjin remains. First, it shows that apparently right now it only takes 30 hours to get “moderate poisoning” in the area around the explosion. Second, the only heavy machinery being used in the cleanup may belong to an eccentric millionaire.

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