Crowds gathered on the banks of Tianjin’s Haihe River on Thursday, looking agape at the grim and unnerving scene before them: there, washed up on the riverside, were thousands upon thousands of fish -- all dead.
The dead fish were found only a few miles from the scene of the deadly explosions that rocked the Chinese city last Wednesday. The gruesome phenomenon has sparked serious concerns that toxic chemicals from the blast site -- a warehouse that stored at least 2,500 tons of hazardous chemicals -- have leaked into the river.
Chinese officials, however, have denied that the fish deaths are linked to the blasts.
Military teams are reportedly “still struggling to decontaminate” the blast site more than a week after the explosions, The Guardian reports.
Wastewater runoff near the site of the explosions have been found to contain hundreds of times as much sodium cyanide than is considered “safe.” Sodium cyanide is extremely toxic to humans, even in very small quantities.
Chinese authorities, however, have insisted that water samples taken from the river where the dead fish were found on Thursday did not contain toxic levels of cyanide. The fish were found about four miles from the blast site.
Deng Xiaowen, head of Tianjin’s environment monitoring center, said the agency would launch an investigation into the fish deaths. He maintained, however, that “it was not uncommon for fish to die en masse in local rivers during summer, due to poor water quality,” per The Guardian.
Despite such assurances, residents of the area have expressed skepticism.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Wang Lei, a 47-year-old man at the river banks Thursday, told the New York Times. “There has to be a link between the dead fish and the blast. What else could explain the death of so many?”
At least 114 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured in last week’s explosions, which were so powerful that “cars melted and homes crumbled.” According to ABC News, 70 people are still missing.
As residents continue to demand answers and compensation for their damaged property, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to thoroughly investigate the disaster.
“The incident has caused heavy casualties and property loss,” he said at a Politburo meeting Thursday, per the New York Times. “It was a profound lesson paid with blood.”
Related on HuffPost: