Photos: Scary white foam is all over Tianjin, China after a toxic explosion

The damage is not over.
The damage is not over.
Image: REUTERS/Jason Lee
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The first rainfall since the devastating explosions rocked the Chinese city of Tianjin has produced a mysterious white foam, sparking widespread concern among the city’s residents.

Some people who have come into contact with the foam report that they are experiencing a burning sensation on their face and lips, while others report a stinging sensation and itchiness on their arms, the Shanghaiist blog reported.

Some Tianjin residents saw this coming. A video posted on Aug. 17, a day before the thunderstorms hit, showed what happens when chemical residue from the explosion is exposed to water, as the grey muck gives off visible plumes of vapor.

The Aug. 12 explosion took place in a warehouse of Ruihai International Logistics, a firm that specializes in hazardous goods shipments, after explosive materials ignited in a shipping container. The death toll from the explosions is now at 114, with 70 missing, according to state-run broadcaster CCTV, and the explosion may have dispersed massive amounts of poisonous sodium cyanide, which were stored at the site.

Anticipating thunderstorms and rainfall Monday (Aug. 17) and Tuesday (Aug. 18), authorities built temporary enclosures around a 100,000 sq m (1 million sq ft) area where the explosions took place, which they say will be continually reinforced to prevent the outpour of contaminated water, state-run news service Xinhua reported.

Local monitoring centers reported normal air quality in the city, and officials have also set up water monitoring stations throughout the city. Yet as evidenced by the foam and reported symptoms, any attempt to contain toxic contaminants will be extremely difficult.