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China Blast death toll rises to 123

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The death toll from a series of explosions earlier this month that rocked the northern port city of Tianjin rose to 123, state media reported Sunday.

Fifty people are still missing and 624 are still in hospital a little more than a week after the blasts, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local officials.

The explosions at a hazardous goods storage facility on August 12 triggered a giant fireball and new fires broke out as recently as Friday.

China’s powerful State Council, or cabinet, has vowed to conduct a “rigorous” investigation into the cause of the explosions, Xinhua said Saturday.

The owners of the hazardous goods storage company at the centre of the incident, Rui Hai International Logistics, reportedly included the son of a former police chief who used his connections to help the firm obtain the necessary permits and pass inspections.

The blasts have also sparked fears of toxic pollutants contaminating the air and water of the city, which has a population of around 15 million people.

Thousands of tonnes of hazardous chemicals were stored at the site, officials have said, including about 700 tonnes of highly poisonous sodium cyanide, a white powder or crystal which can give off lethal hydrogen cyanide gas.

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